I've always liked Jennifer Garner. Classy, talented, and strong. She's reliably delivered enjoyable on-screen performances, starting with her spy-turn in the 1990's TV series, "Alias," to action films like 'The Kingdom," to such comedies as "13 Going on 30" and dramas like "Dallas Buyers Club." Off-screen, she's been in the headlines for her determined defense of her children's privacy from tabloid attention. She's clearly a strong, caring mom so the idea of her playing a wife and mother intent on seeking revenge against the people who destroyed her family seems like an excellent choice. That's the premise of the new film, "Peppermint." Unfortunately, a good movie requires more than just a talented leading lady.
Garner plays "Riley North," a Los Angeles mom who loves her young daughter (Cailey Fleming) and her auto mechanic husband. (Chris North) The family is struggling financially which leads her spouse to make fateful decision which results in them incurring the wrath of a criminal gang led by Juan Pablo Raba. ("Narcos") Raba is a satisfactory villain who tries to rise above most of the cringe-worthy dialogue being recited around him. 'He smoked some of our homies" is just one example from the script by Chad St. John, who also wrote the rather lacking, "London Has Fallen."
The gang doesn't know what they are in for after Garner's character is failed by a corrupt justice system and begins exacting revenge in extremely violent ways: Bodies are hung from a Ferris wheel, tattoo-covered bad guys are shot in the head at close-range, and people are run over. "Peppermint" is directed by Pierre Morel who did a great job with 2008's "Taken" which had an emotional heart as well as non-stop action. However, with "Peppermint," he seems to be trying to out-do the violence of a film like "John Wick" (which was elevated by some emotional depth) but only provides a lacking, bare-bones sympathy for his main character. One scene in which the heroine threatens to burn down the house of a fellow mom who insulted her years earlier seems downright cruel.
The supporting cast is not given a lot to do. Annie Llonzeh ("Person of Interest") plays an FBI agent who enters and exits fairly quickly. John Gallagher,Jr. ("The Newsrom") comes off like a generic TV police detective, although his partner (John Ortiz from the movie "Steve Jobs") does lend some authority to his role.
"Peppermint" is a very, by-the-numbers movie. There's nothing particularly original about the script or memorable about the film. The studio is obviously hoping audiences disagree and want more. The movie ends with the door wide open for a sequel. As mentioned, I'm a big fan of Jennifer Garner but she can't raise a mediocre effort all by herself.
1-1/2 popcorn boxes.
Review by Mark Greczmiel
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