A lot of people seem to compare this character portrayed by Jennifer Garner as another she played in a show called Alias several years ago, as a college graduate trained as a spy. Well, training is definitely on the table, or was. Let me explain. Garner plays a mother and wife named Riley North, a banker who ends up with bad timing on her daughter Carly’s birthday. A snotty privileged mom doesn’t like that Riley could not make separate ends meet, despite the fact this woman doesn’t have to work. So they throw a big blowout party at the last second that made everyone skip out on her party. But Riley isn’t about to let her or anyone’s actions ruin her night. They go out for pizza and to the local carnival, where they go out for ice cream. Guess which flavour Carly picks, double-scooped? Unbeknownst to her, her husband Chris and his friend Mickie are in some financial trouble against a drug dealer named Diego Garcia, but they both don’t want in. They feel it’s too risky. Well, it was too risky to even get started. Three of Garcia’s henchmen make a fatal hit and run against Chris, killing both him and Carly and nearly Riley as well. They are apprehended...and then released on account of apparently insufficient evidence, the justice system working against Riley with short-sighted excuses that actually end up working. Consumed with grief, betrayal and rage, Riley is sent to the psychiatrics hospital but escapes the ambulance, robs the bank she worked at for 55-thousand dollars, and takes off. But she’s not about to just hide under a bridge and cry. That’s a big nope.
Riley is out for revenge, and not just against the three gun-slayers. Complete revenge. From the blueprints, it’s another disposable John-Wick Bryan-Mills shotfest remix with a woman protagonist to squeeze more money. This is even from the director of the first Taken movie. But thanks to Jennifer Garner’s haunting performance, Peppermint is a thriller that allows us to bathe in its brutality and remind us how a mother’s love for her family is incomparable.
Something I wasn’t sure about early on in the film is that Riley manages to kill those three shooters I mentioned earlier...without us seeing it happen. We do see one of them get killed but that’s it. I thought they would be the big bosses. I was then worried that this would be a movie set on the road most of the time or something, Riley looking for different locations or some excuse to make people whisper their lines in grayscale backgrounds. I generally hate those kinds of movies. But we then see Riley make quick and satisfyingly condescending work of another antagonist of the story, and my fears swiftly evaporated. Whenever Garner is not clearly hurting, from either a wound or from five-year-old grief, she’s either still showing signs of being scared and wishing she did not have to do what she’s doing.
Listen, there are a lot of gunshots in this movie; a lot of brains blasted off, a lot of head squishes and a lot of explosions. I know I’m repeating myself here, but in a different performance, there’s a chance we’d just be begging for the protagonist to stop her vigilante massacre.
Garner’s performance also allows us to believe in the non-purposeful side plots. Riley ends up with a lot of positive attention, from online and offline communities. We already know she was the best mother in the world and is keeping that up. If John Wick received this sort of attention, I wouldn’t buy it as much. I’d find it over exaggerated. I would say Garner was the reason for such a high grade, but there’s also the actually dazzling decisions in some of the action sequences. There are some clever ways she utilizes her surroundings instead of simply having a gun in an open field and hoping her gut accomplishes the job instead of spewing all over the ground with an icing layer of blood. There’s also a sneaky fact about Garcia’s drug operation. There’s a scene during a meeting where a girl in a revealing dress and carbon black high heels brings Garcia and his guest some whiskey. She’s shaking, frightened and probably feeling incarcerated. It would’ve been so easy to make her seem confident and enjoying herself in the ring of sexy tattoo-splattered men with some unlimited missiles at their helms. Instead, director Pierre Morel goes for the more human approach. Not all drug dealers deserve scrutiny. Just read/watch The Hate U Give. But movies with these sorts of scenes and these sorts of killings show some drug cartels are plain evil.
Sometimes it may feel the movie just won’t slow down, and it kind of just doesn’t, and it might even seem a little cheesy how many bad guys she takes down and how many bullets miss her stomach. The stereotypes of the drug cartels being pretty much completely Mexican is way overdone at this point. There’s also a moment during the climax where I didn’t quite believe this certain escape would really happen. However, all throughout the film I cared about what was going to happen, and the ending made me think about the characters far long after. I would give Peppermint a chance. As for if you should watch the movie with your mother? She’ll either feel empowered or violated. But if she is upset about something? It’ll be the former.