They have been making movies like Peppermint since before I was born. Steven Seagal and Jean-Claude Van Damme were making movies where their family was killed and they got revenge.
This trope can be a fine vehicle for an action star, and Jennifer Garner deserves a fine vehicle. Peppermint seems to misunderstand what makes revenge movies great and focuses on the boring parts.
Riley North (Garner) turns vigilante on the drug cartel who killed her husband and daughter. The cartel underestimates her, the cops can’t stop her and the people on the street love her.
Garner remains a great action hero, but no movie has really capitalized on Alias. Imagine Jennifer Garner in the action roles Angelina Jolie and Charlize Theron get. Not that Jolie or Theron should lose those roles, but they should make more good ones like those.
By the time Riley is getting her revenge, she’s already lost everything and has no more patience to humor anyone. Garner is great at that attitude, telling off condescending criminals and officers, plus she has the Linda Hamilton arms for fighting.
But it seems like most of the cool parts of Peppermint happen off camera. We hear that Riley robbed a bank to fund her revenge. It seems like that would be a really cool scene to see Riley rob a bank, but we don’t get to. The cops just say she did.
We don’t really get to see her kill the gunmen who shot her family. We only see the aftermath.
We get to see her kill the judge, but not the A-hole lawyers who equally screwed her over. We would have loved to see those smug jerks get what’s coming to them too, and it also would have given the film more white villains so it wasn’t so all Mexican stereotypes who say “f***ing puta” to show they’re not to be messed with.
We hear she’s sabotaging drug shipments. Wouldn’t it be cool to actually see her hijack a cocaine truck? Even late in the movie, a cartel accountant tells Diego she burned all their money. SHOW US HER BURNING THE MONEY!
I’m not saying to make the movie longer adding these scenes. I’m saying replace the boring scenes with cool ones. Like, you could do away with the entire police subplot. No one’s worried they’re gonna catch Riley and police corruption is a more hackneyed subplot than the macro revenge plot.
It is unfortunate that the action we do see is Taken-style, shot too close and cut too quickly to really see the choreography. It’s not quite as bad as Bourne style that’s shaky beyond comprehensibility, but it’s not showing the grace and brutality of Garner’s moves.
The whole third act is in the dark so you really can’t see anything. Plus, director Pierre Morel likes to cut in jitter frames. I guess we have Domino to thank for that technique.
The film also could have worked a little harder to show the system failing Riley. I mean, they gave the three gunmen the most distinctive facial tattoos ever and got the case thrown out on the grounds that Riley couldn’t have identified them in a moving car at night.
Not only does Jennifer Garner deserve a better vehicle for her abilities, we deserve to see them showcased better. If Peppermint is all that’s available to someone at her level, she might as well just take it easy playing sensitive mothers in inspiring films like Miracles from Heaven and Love, Simon.
Peppermint opens Friday, September 7.