Released: 15th November
Seen: 21st December
You know what’s really difficult about writing these reviews? Figuring out how to start them. Sometimes it comes easy, there’s a really good comparison I can make to give the reader a quick idea of the direction I might go in or there’s a half decent joke I can build too. Sometimes though, there’s nothing. Sometimes, there is no really good comparison or a bit of weird history, sometimes a film just pops up out of nowhere and surprises you with its release, mildly impresses you with how it’s telling a well-told story and then… nothing. It’s not that it’s awful, it just kind of happens to be there and there isn’t exactly that much to say about it that would make a good lead into the main portion of the review.
Peppermint is the story of Riley North (Jennifer Garner), a mother trying to deal with a job that keeps her from her daughter Carly’s (Cailey Fleming) birthday party and has to deal with assholes who run the equivalent to the girl scouts. Life is manageable, but not easy. Her husband Chris (Jeff Hephner) considers helping his friend out with a job stealing from the cartel, but declines… sadly, he declines AFTER the head of the cartel hears about the plan and decides to make a public example of Chris. That public example meaning executing the man in a drive-by shooting that also kills Carley, but leaves Riley alive as a witness. When the corrupt system doesn’t give Riley the justice she deserves, she finds a way to get the justice that she’s entitled too.
What I’ve just described is basically every revenge film you’ve heard of. Taken, Kill Bill, I Spit On Your Grave (Hey, there’s those good comparisons I was looking for) all had this idea of people who had something horrible happen to them deciding that it was only fair if they… well, roar, rampage, get bloody satisfaction. It’s a staple genre for a reason, there’s something about seeing someone make people pay for the harm done to them that thrills us and to be fair, Peppermint delivers on that thing. It does that by ticking every single solitary check mark that one has to tick in order to be a portion of this genre. Think of a cliché right now that you think is a part of this genre where someone turns vigilante to get revenge on the people who harmed them… that cliché is in here. All of them are and it’s almost impressive how many they fit in here, considering that there’s a huge chunk of movie that is missing.
One thing that really stunned me was how quickly this film went from “Suburban mom” to “She’s a killer queen” without really showing how she got to be this good. There’s a scene where an FBI agent talks about how they tracked her around the world and sure, telling us is nice but… it’s a movie, SHOW. Show me how Jennifer Garner went from mom to assassin. I’m curious to see how that happened and exploring that was possibly the one thing they didn’t steal from everyone else. Without that major transition, we get a jarring time jump and the movie feels like it’s almost half an hour too short. I’m all for brisk pacing, I’m not for “Oh, where did some of this film go?”. It doesn’t help when the interesting stuff feels like it was lifted from a lot of better films and the boring stuff… well, that was also lifted from better films.
This isn’t to say there aren’t things about this film that can be enjoyed. This movie has got a fair bit going for it, namely the performance by Jennifer Garner which carries the entire thing. Even when it feels like we missed something, you still follow her easily and she brings a top-notch performance. She’s able to make you care for her within seconds and that strength and power just makes the film good to watch. Not a joy, not great, but good. She makes you actively root for her to get her vengeance no matter what it will take. I also think the rest of the cast was pretty good, it’s clear who was doing most of the hard work, but the rest of the cast keeps up with her relatively well.
There are some action setpieces that work well, particularly around the end of the film when everything is going haywire. Sure, they’re set pieces that we’ve seen before, but they’re still done fairly well. I even enjoyed the twists that come at the end of the second act, the twist that’s almost shockingly predictable but it still worked to an extent. That almost describes the entire film, it’s predictable but it still kinda works. I kind of already knew most of these characters but they were still good, I’ve already seen this shocking twist but at least you made it feel a little unexpected. I’ve seen it before, but it still had something resembling an effect on me.
This film isn’t bad, it just brings nothing new to the table. There is no new story, no new twist, no element of the style choices that feel new or original, it just tells a bare-bones story and tells it well. I can’t pretend I didn’t enjoy the film, I did. I smiled at the right moments, I laughed at the cheesy one-liners, I jumped when the appropriate shocking moment caused me to lift out of my seat, but it’s so clearly repeating everything that’s come before it that it’s impossible to really see it as more than a discount version of better movies. You’ll still have a half decent time if you go see it, there’s nothing glaringly bad about it, but it’s all been done before almost exactly this way and it just feels like a waste.
What did you think of Peppermint? Let me know in the comments below