Oh, how quickly we forget. Admittedly yes, I am one of those people who believe that 1996 was only 10 years ago, so it sickens me when people can’t remember how completely and utterly kick-arse Jennifer Garner was when she roundhouse kicked her way into our hearts “less” than 10 years ago. Jennifer became a household name after five seasons on ‘Alias’ (2001-2006), whooped Daredevil on the big screen in 2003, and was so bad arse she got her own film ‘Elektra’ in 2005. Boom! Take that Black Widow and Wonder Woman. Since then, she became 13 going on 30, adopted a pregnant teen’s baby, helped invent lying, consoled a dying trans Jared Leto, had a terrible, horrible, not good, very bad day, and became the mum every closeted teenager wishes they had. Needless to say, uppercuts were put on the back burner for the last decade or so - but now the Jennifer Garner we fell in love with is back with a vengeance and... and... and... she’s kinda dull.
Riley North (Garner) is a hard-working mother whose husband and young daughter are gunned down in front of her by drug kingpin Diego Garcia (Juan Pablo Raba, Netflix’s ‘Narcos’). When justice fails to prevail, Riley runs and goes off the grid, only to resurface five years later having picked up some new skills and hell-bent on finally seeking the justice and revenge that eluded her and her family. When the bodies of Garcia’s crew and corrupt city personnel start piling up, the case draws the attention of the FBI and Detective Stan Carmichael (John Gallagher Jr, ‘Short Term 12’) who worked Riley’s case in the past. In a world where social media and trial by public opinion rule, the world deems Riley a hero vigilante, finally cleaning up the streets of Los Angeles, where authorities see her as something different. She also becomes enemy No. 1 to the drug cartels, neither side planning on going down without a fight.
The biggest and greatest cinematic evolution over the last few years is more women and more women of power. Whether it’s Charlize Theron, Scarlett Johannson, Gal Gardot or even the younger generation like Millie Bobby Brown or Dafne Keen, audiences are eating it up and loving it. After so many years of Stallone, Schwarzeneggar and Willis, it was high time for some fresh blood and some extra X chromosomes. The problem is we’ve become so accustomed to a certain level or heroism, badarsery and action that unfortunately ‘Peppermint’ doesn’t make the grade. There are simply too many potential actions set pieces here that are underplayed or glossed over. The setup is there, and you have a star that can pull them off, but director Pierre Morel (‘Taken’, 2008) has choked at the execution. This is, after all, the man who started the ‘Taken’ franchise - we know he knows how to highlight a gun fight, a fist fight and a quest for what’s right. I don’t think I’m being too harsh when I say: we expected more here.
There’s so much potential to have fun with this and go all-out, but the opening is never taken and it ends up being boring.
So the setup is nothing new. The domestic working mum turned vengeful mamma bear who can snap your neck in six different places before your body hits the ground, is however. There’s so much potential to have fun with this and go all-out, but the opening is never taken and it ends up being boring. All of Riley’s scenes are dark, moody and really cool-looking, but when it comes to the secondary stories - the cops and the cartel - it’s all too stereotypical and cliché, and really lets the film down both story-wise and through the screenplay - yikes, it’s bad. I think the only thing saving Garner from total embarrassment is that she barely has any dialogue, she just lets her fist and trigger finger so it for her.
At the end of the day, you won’t feel like you’ve wasted an hour and 41 minutes of your life, but you certainly won’t be satisfied.