What You Need To Know:
PEPPERMINT tries to be a female version of DEATH WISH or TAKEN, but it feels cheap and poorly conceived and executed on nearly every level. The weak script provides little or no motivation or humanity to any of the law enforcement officials or gang members the heroine confronts. This revenge thriller has a strong humanist, nihilistic worldview with little regard for human life. PEPPERMINT has lots of mayhem, violence, and foul language, but not much art or heart.
PEPPERMINT stars Jennifer Garner in the story of a suburban housewife who trains to become an expert at shooting and fighting in all manner of ways in order to get revenge for the killings of her husband and young daughter on the fifth anniversary of their deaths. Poorly conceived, with a weak script, PEPPERMINT has a strong humanist, nihilistic worldview with excessive foul language, excessive revenge and excessive violence.
The plot of PEPPERMINT is simple. Working-class mother Riley North is shown happily being a Girl Scout mom with her young daughter until a rich fellow mother treats them with cruel condescension. We then see her at home with her struggling mechanic husband, who’s tempted by a friend to rob a local drug cartel but turns him down without the cartel knowing it. As a result, a cartel member tortures and kills the husband’s friend, then comes after him, not realizing he had backed out of the illicit plan.
Thus, the thugs tail the family and slaughter Riley’s husband and daughter in a machine-gun drive-by shooting, while Riley survives also being shot. When a corrupt judge allows the killers to go free on a technicality, Riley erupts in a fit of rage that gets her ordered to a psychiatric hold in county hospital. However, she escapes the ambulance and disappears, with police and FBI later discovering that she has somewhat ludicrously traversed the globe in the five years since the killings to train in all sorts of combat and shooting skills.
Riley is back in town for the fifth anniversary of her family’s murders and is out to kill everyone responsible for her husband and daughter’s murders, from the judge and lawyers to every possible member of the gang involved. As the cops and FBI try to find her and stop her rampage, social media and the local news all become fixated on her violent crusade, leading to a series of showdowns with the criminals.
PEPPERMINT tries to be a female version of DEATH WISH, but it feels cheap and poorly conceived and executed on nearly every level. Garner is the only recognizable actor in the entire cast, enabling the weak script to provide little or no motivation or humanity to any of the law enforcement officials or the gang members the heroine confronts.
Director Pierre Morel set the standard for modern revenge thrillers with the superb original film in the TAKEN trilogy, but there he had a CIA agent hero trying to save his daughter from sex trafficking and death. In PEPPERMINT, his new movie, Garner’s Riley North is a poorly drawn killing machine who mows down her victims like they’re faceless figures in a non-stop video game.
While there are a few impressive action scenes, it’s hard to care about nearly any of the action occurring because there are no emotional stakes involved that can make a great villain. By the time Riley tries to engage in her final showdown during the movie’s last half hour, PEPPERMINT has become a hopelessly tiresome slog that leaves viewers nothing to care about whatsoever.
Besides the excessive foul language and violence, especially troubling is the fact that nearly every single Latino in the movie is portrayed as a drug-making killer (minus the one police officer played by John Oritz). While we don’t care for the other extreme of denying that drug cartels often are from south of the border, PEPPERMINT’s relentlessly ugly depictions of dozens of Latinos without one redeeming character is a sad case of obvious race-baiting.
Put EVERYTHING together and PEPPERMINT is a movie that advocates violent revenge amid a cartoonishly corrupt judicial system. This is a movie that will leave a sour taste in most media-wise viewers’ mouths. PEPPERMINT has lots of mayhem, violence, and foul language, but not much art or heart.