VIGILANTE “PEPPERMINT” BRUTAL REVENGE STORY; “YOU” ON TV
A Film and TV Review by Tim Riley
PEPPERMINT (Rated R)
Long ago, Charles Bronson perfected the righteous vigilante in “Death Wish.” In recent times, we have had Liam Neeson in the “Taken” series and Denzel Washington in “The Equalizer” films to pick up the mantle of heroes exacting revenge on stereotyped bad guys. “Peppermint” brings a new twist to this genre in that a strong female character gets into the action of meting out personal justice. Jennifer Garner, who showed her action chops in the TV show “Alias,” mirrors what Liam Neeson brought to his action hero role in “Taken.”
Garner’s Riley North, a working mother living in a Los Angeles suburb with her husband Chris (Jeff Hephner) and young daughter Carly (Cailey Fleming), has a life that seems fairly typical of the average family. Chris, who runs an auto repair shop, is looking to get ahead financially on an unfortunate deal that would put him in the crosshairs of a Mexican drug cartel. Backing out of an ill-advised scheme comes too late for him.
Near the Christmas holiday on an outing to a local carnival, Chris is gunned-down in a hail of machine gun fire, while Carly is also caught in the crossfire, all of it happening while Riley witnesses the tragedy. The justice system fails Riley in epic fashion when her identification of three gang members in court gets tossed by a corrupt judge. Only two LAPD detectives seem to have taken her interest for justice to heart. Disappearing for five years, Riley returns to Los Angeles as an avenging angel seeking street justice. During her absence, she trained in martial arts and all sorts of weaponry to become the female equivalent of Jason Statham.
The three thugs that got off scot-free are found hanging from a Ferris wheel and the corrupt lawyers are also dispatched. It doesn’t take long then for the detectives (John Ortiz and John Gallagher, Jr.) to figure out that Riley North is back in town with a vengeance. While the crooked judge is confronted to a brutal demise, Riley’s primary focus is going after the cartel operation of Diego Garcia (Juan Pablo Raba), who was responsible for the hit placed on her husband.
To sum up what takes place, suffice to say that Riley goes on a rampage through the cartel’s warehouse and Garcia’s heavily-armed estate with the kind of shootings and explosions that Keanu Reeves employed to take out his adversaries in “John Wick.” “Peppermint” is almost certain to offend the sensibilities of pretentious critics who object to brainless vigilante violence.
It’s no coincidence that the film is directed by Pierre Morel, the director behind “Taken.” This means that “Peppermint” is designed for the same audience and not for the art-house crowd. Some people have wondered why the title of the film is “Peppermint,” and my take, for what it’s worth, on this is that the young daughter asks for peppermint ice cream on the fateful night of the shooting. It’s simply symbolic. Whether “Peppermint” turns out to be your flavor or not depends on how you may have reacted to other films in the same genre. It does check all the boxes for an action-filled revenge fantasy.