Updated: Jul 19, 2019
By Derek May
Let’s get two obvious things out of the way from the beginning.
First, Peppermint is a terrible title. Just awful. Even after it’s been explained. It skirts the gravitas of the story and doesn’t exactly embody vigilante action.
Second, the story is just another Death Wish, or Punisher. As a broad narrative, there’s nothing here we haven’t seen a dozen times over.
Ok, now that we got that out there, we must remind ourselves that the value of any story depends on two factors: what is says, and how it says it. We’ve covered the “what,” so let’s talk about the “how.”
I’m going to start at the top with Jennifer Garner as Riley North, overwhelmed working mom turned one-woman hurricane of death. I can’t tell you what a thrill it is to see her return to her action roots, having been a huge fan of Alias when it first premiered. I think she has an amazing screen presence, and enough talent to conquer just about any role in any genre. After years eschewing bad-assery for safer, more mainstream comedic fair and becoming recognizable to a whole new generation as merely the Capital One-card lady, she’s finally ready to flex her steely muscles again in her bloodiest role yet.
And she kills it.
Too many revenge films gloss over the tragedy that drives the protagonist to such unfathomable actions, but thanks to a clever script and Garner’s effective emoting, we genuinely feel her loss, her pain, and her anger. And as we jump right into the action, Garner’s background serves her well. We completely buy-in to her as both soccer mom and tough-as-nails neck-cracker. Unlike many heroes of the genre who seem to shut off, becoming cold, mindless killing machines until the job is done, Garner is able to retain her humanity and vulnerability even as the bodies pile up. She never plays Riley as an unstoppable master of death after only a few years of training, but more as someone disciplined and competent enough to pull off her scheme with a little luck and a heap of willpower. It’s an effective blend of her past roles, and presents a character that really only she might conceivably bring off the page.