by George Wolf
Jennifer Garner has been a screen sweetheart for enough years now that it might be easy to forget she rose to fame as the action star of TV’s Alias.
Peppermint is her bloody reminder, a corpse-strewn revenge caper with few surprises but plenty of ambitions for a new franchise.
Garner is Riley North, an LA mom whose husband and daughter are gunned down on orders from ruthless drug dealer Diego Garcia (Juan Pablo Raba). Riley is injured badly but survives the shooting, eventually giving the cops positive IDs on the three gunman….which bases the entire film on a contradiction.
The flimsy reason for the hit, along with the stories of Garcia’s mythic levels of evildoing, don’t jibe with his offer to buy Riley’s silence instead of buying her the farm. If only that were the film’s biggest problem.
The script from Chad St. John (London Has Fallen – woof) serves up heaps of one-note obviousness amid layers of cop cliche circle-jerkery.
“The FBI wants to talk..”
Yes, experienced detective, that’s a big ten-four!
Treasure troves of info result from 15-second phone calls, kids living on skid row sport gleaming white teeth, and the search for any authenticity in this film is DOA.
So, dead then?
Sigh…yes! And then there’s the matter of Riley’s particularly deadly set of skills. Suffice to say there are issues there as well, but thankfully not because we’re given yet another Taken knockoff.
With Taken‘s director Pierre Morel at the helm, it’s not a big leap to expect just that. Instead, Riley’s frequent baddie beatdowns set her up as a West Coast Equalizer, but Morel can’t cash that check, either.
The reasons to get invested in any of this are hastily assembled and unconvincing, and Morel’s action sequences seldom escape a bland auto pilot, but Garner makes a comfortable return to the action saddle. She casts Riley as a likable, if less-than-believable, anti-hero, and Morel manages to keep the focus respectably gritty, never sexualizing Garner beyond some seriously long-lasting lipstick.
High on body count but low on substance, Peppermint tastes like a strange blend of committed and lazy.