Thursday 8 October 2020

Movie Review: Peppermint (2018)

A routine vigilante thriller, Peppermint features shallow characterizations, a high body count and stratospheric levels of implausibility.

At the Los Angeles Christmas fairgrounds, Riley North (Jennifer Garner) witnesses the murder of her husband Chris and daughter Carly by goons working for drug lord Garcia (Juan Pablo Raba). A traumatized Riley identifies the shooters, but Garcia's intimidation extends into the justice system and the perpetrators walk free. Detectives Beltran (John Ortiz) and Carmichael (John Gallagher Jr.) are helpless, and Riley disappears.

After five years of weapons and martial arts training, Riley returns to Los Angeles and lives in a van parked on skid row. She initiates a murderous clean-up campaign targeting Garcia's organization and corrupt justice officials. FBI agent Lisa Inman (Annie Ilonzeh) joins Beltran and Carmichael in trying to stop the rampage, but Riley becomes a vigilante star on social media.

An elemental Death Wish knock-off, Peppermint does not bother with too much context or depth. Director Pierre Morel gets down to the business of killing from the opening scene, and within a couple of days Riley North proceeds to wipe out dozens of goons, gang leaders and assorted hangers-on, not to mention corrupt judges and lawyers. A few buildings are reduced to rubble, and one admittedly ramshackle neighbourhood destroyed.

Despite some suspect editing the action scenes are generally well executed, and Morel provides a glossy sheen as the bullets fly and blood flows. Chad St. John's script is humourless and witless, with most of the dialogue at cheap television show levels, but character evolution is the most glaring void. Riley transforms from anti-violence mom to a well-oiled killing machine, but the five intervening years are entirely skipped over. 

With a physically committed performance Jennifer Garner does her best to fill in the blanks, but Riley's sheer blood lust is beyond the reach of easy comprehension. The secondary characters are unimaginative stock creations, matched by an underpowered supporting cast. Peppermint is the flavour of ice cream young Carly orders just before she is killed, and most of it just melts into an unseemly puddle.

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