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Movie Review: Peppermint

Get revenge with Peppermint. Image used from nylon.com

It has been thirteen years since Jennifer Garland helmed an action movie; her last outing Elektra being an abysmal, sloppy mess. For whatever reason she has been given another chance with Peppermint a new vigilante/revenge film. Under normal circumstances this would be excellent news. Garner is a good actress who deserves to be the lead in a film. It’s good to see her in an action film again and with the film being directed by Taken director Pierre Morel, everything should be great. Unfortunately, one aspect manages to hinder the whole film.

 

The story for Peppermint is very “by the numbers” and generic. The story follows Riley North, who witnessed the brutal murder of her husband and daughter at the hands of a Cartel. After the justice system lets her down and the perpetrators get away Riley disappears only to return on the fifth anniversary of her family’s murder to seek revenge. From here you can pretty much guess how everything plays out: a white suburbanite becomes a one man army, kills scores of bad guys without getting hurt, the police hate them but the public loves them and after one final bout of visceral carnage the hero rides off into the sunset without the law laying one finger on them. Granted the story can have it’s moments. There’s a decent twist in the third act that is pretty effective and the moments of drama, such as the initial court case that sets off the whole film, are well made. But of course dear reader that’s not what you want to know about, rather you want to know about the villains, oh boy the villains. The Cartel villains are the text book definition of an offensive stereotype. Firstly the film really drives home the whole idea of the poor, most holy white woman being terrorized by big bad Mexicans, the main villain needs a statue of Nuestra Senora de la Santa Muerte in every single room he’s in and most heinous of all one the villains main bases of operation takes place in a piñata factory! Good Lord! Under normal circumstances this would be bad enough but under this current illegitimate administration where Hispanic Americans are demonized, innocent people are bound in chains and forcibly removed from the country and children are ripped from their parents and thrown in cages while as a human trafficking scheme unfolds before our very eyes it comes off as incredibly insensitive and disgustingly offensive. What makes this worse is that it was intentional. In this day and age vigilante films are irrelevant and can’t sell anymore. So how do you sell an easy to make but hard to sell film? Sell it to the Trump supporters, a wasteful endeavour as they’re only the minority of a minority. It’s all the more obnoxious as there was an interesting story here in Riley’s backstory, five whole years worth of interesting stories and instead writer Chad St. John went for something easy and thought the Right would be able to pay it off. But they can’t. To all aspiring screenplay writers out there always remember: There are no shortcuts.

 

The characters for Peppermint are decent

 

Riley North is a pretty good hero. Her pain is shown in great detail and she comes off as incredibly sympathetic and rather cool in her action set pieces. It would have been nice to see how she became to butt kicking hero she is here but what we get is enough. It still can be uncomfortable seeing her kill numerous people of color and like the story itself hinders her. She also does commit some rather heinous actions such as assaulting an innocent, unarmed person which makes her character more uncomfortable though at least she doesn’t maim said person unlike some of Morel’s other characters.

 

Detective Stan Carmichael is an interesting character. He shows sympathy to Riley and through the film sides with her actions through and through. But things aren’t always what they seem and that’s what makes this character truly interesting.

 

Acting for Peppermint is well done

 

Jennifer Garland does a splendid job as Riley North. Her moments of drama are quite powerful and she easily fits the mold of an action hero. She’s captivating and absolutely wonderful throughout, even in North’s more troublesome moments.

 

John Gallagher Jr. does a fine job as Carmichael. It isn’t one of his better roles but he does manage to be memorable if only for the fact that he’s so recognizable from other much better films.

 

John Ortiz plays Detective Moises Beltran, a character who doesn’t have much to do until the third act unfortunately. Ortiz does a well enough job in what little he was given and it is nice seeing him play a good guy for a change.

 

Cailey Fleming plays Riley’s daughter Carly and that kid not does too good of a job in her role. It’s always sad seeing a kid in a movie it’s even worse when the acrtress playing said kid does an incredibly good job and is as cute as a button throughout.

 

Juan Pablo Raba plays the main villain Diego Garcia. He has to play a stereotype that we’ve seen in many other movies and shows. The man has nothing to work with. It is revealed that Garcia has a daughter and that could have led somewhere that could have given Raba more to do. But no, it leads nowhere.

 

The action in Peppermint is entertaining

 

When trailers for Peppermint first came out everyone and their grandmother compared it to John Wick. People really can be sheep can’t they? Hey what’s popular right now? We’ll compare this thing to something else even though they aren’t similar. Rest assured Peppermint is no John Wick not by a long shot but the action is still quite good. The action is numerous with plenty of exciting gun fights, decent fight scenes and thoroughly satisfying  finale. The cinematography can be rather shaky at times but it’s passable. Honestly the action in this film is everything the Death Wish remake should have been but wasn’t. The action doesn’t live up to some of Morel’s earlier works but it is still entertaining and gets the job done.

 

Final Thoughts: There are some things to really like about Peppermint. The characters are decent, the acting is well done, the story has some fine moments and the action is fun. But the intentional racist overtones drag down the movie. Yeah I had fun with it but at the end it just left a terribly bitter taste in my mouth. It’s horrible that the filmmakers felt they had to use controversy to sell their movie. Peppermint may be typical and by the numbers but it was fun but the racism hurts is severely. Perhaps in better, not racist hands this film does have the potential to blossom into a decent franchise. Until then let’s make our voices heard and drill it into Hollywood’s head that we don’t want stereotypical POC as villains anymore.

 

Verdict: 2/5

About the Author

Good day to you, my name is Jonathan Gonzalez. For years I've loved movies and have been reviewing them for years, ever since I first saw Roger Ebert on Ebert and Roeper during my freshman year of high school for the first time. I am a graduate of Mercy College with a Bachelor's in Journalism and I have Asperger's Syndrome, something I am truly proud of.

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