On paper, having the guy who directed Taken bring in an unlikely female action hero and have her wreck shop in a full-blown, guns blazing revenge thriller sounds like a good enough idea. Unfortunately, Peppermint is something that sounded a lot better on paper than it ultimately ended up being. Despite a really solid, unexpected and very compelling performance from Jennifer Garner, this doesn’t really rise above the level of very average when it comes to such action flicks, a few very visually exciting sequences aside.
Peppermint centers on a woman named Riley North. She awakes from a coma only to be reminded that her husband and daughter were brutally murdered in front of her. Even though the grieving mother is able to identify those who killed her family, they happen to be part of a very powerful drug operation who have their hands in everyone’s pockets, including the judge who lets them go free. Instead of going to her court-ordered mental facility, Riley escapes and spends years planning her revenge. Upon her shocking return, she’s a new woman complete with a particular set of skills that she’s going to use to burn those that wronged her to the ground.
The movie has a more than good enough premise and a director who clearly knows his way around an action movie. But Peppermint mostly feels like a melodramatic, at times corny and tragically stereotypical exercise. It feels very much like a grab bag of things we’ve seen plenty of before. One part Taken, one part The Punisher and a healthy does of Death Wish. Sometimes that grab bag approach works. In this case, not so much. There are moments of great humor and very entertaining, extra-violent sequences. Director Pierre Morel hasn’t really ever suffered in that department. In this case, he just couldn’t manage to elevate the material above cop procedural meets slightly-better-than-Red-Box thriller.
Perhaps the biggest tragedy in this whole thing is the idea of turning Jennifer Garner into an action star at this point in her career is a pretty awesome. She tried with Elektra and, as we all know, that didn’t go so well. Yet, Garner has worked a lot over the years and is an actress who is in many ways underappreciated. It was a cool idea to have her do something like this and it’s a damn shame she didn’t get a better a movie to do it in. Garner really looks the part, acts the part and pours herself into it. She is easily the best thing about Peppermint. But it only serves to frustrate because none of the performers around her, save for the stunt guys doing good work when the bullets are flying, don’t come up to her level. It feels like she really put the work in. It was a good idea executed to a disappointing level of success.
With Peppermint, it’s not even a case of this being a terrible movie. It’s certainly not going to ascend high on anyone’s list of great action movies or revenge flicks, but it’s not an unmitigated disaster or total schlock fest. It’s just disappointing. This felt like something with potential that it never comes close to living up to. And with a movie like Mission: Impossible -Fallout still in theaters, it would be downright irresponsible of me to recommend one actually go spend their hard earned money to see STX‘s latest. But please, someone give Jennifer Garner another shot at being an action hero in a better movie.