by Peter J. O'Connell
Peppermint. Released: Sept. 2018. Runtime: 102 mins. MPAA Rating: R for strong violence and language throughout.
Forty-three killed, thirty-eight on-screen, five off. So take that you characters played by Charles Bronson, Clint Eastwood, Liam Neeson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, et al.! Riley North can top you all.
Who's Riley North? Riley North is a soccer mom-type housewife played by Jennifer Garner in Peppermint, directed by Pierre Morel. Riley North is also a revenge-seeking vigilante played by Jennifer Garner in Peppermint, directed by Pierre Morel.
Riley is transformed from housewife to vigilante after her loving husband and adorable young daughter, peppermint ice cream cones in hand for the daughter's birthday, are gunned down before Riley's eyes at a fair. The drive-by shooting is done by members of a powerful drug cartel, whose boss is Diego Garcia (Juan Pablo Raba). When corrupt officials on the cartel's payroll then get the murderers off despite Riley's identification of them, the gentle woman, now enraged, disappears for five years, during which she undergoes training in weapons handling and martial arts. When she returns, it's definitely no more nice gal!
Operating out of a skid row home base, Riley dispatches baddie after baddie in quite gruesome, though not particularly unique (for this kind of film), ways. Cops (played by, among others, John Gallagher, Jr., Method Man, and Annie Ilonzeh), some dedicated, some corrupt, pursue Riley as she blazes her bloody trail to the inevitable confrontation with Diego Garcia.
The generally bland or stereotypical—Garner's excepted--performances and the one-track, unoriginal plot leave little to recommend about Peppermint. Even in the age of female empowerment, the movie is no model of equality. It's a brief, violent, late-summer diversion that just happens to have a female lead doling out the violence. Garner does, however, manage to do that doling out with a certain degree of conviction and class. She gives the film whatever flavor it has.