Director: Pierre Morel
Writer: Chad St. John
Stars: Jennifer Garner, John Gallagher Jr., John Ortiz
Five years after her husband and daughter are killed in a senseless act of violence, Riley North (Jennifer Garner) comes back from self-imposed exile to seek revenge against those responsible and the system that let them go free.
For me Peppermint is an enjoyable 101 minute action / revenge film that surprisingly has been receiving a few bad reviews prior to me going along to see this on it’s first day here in the UK. It’s not perfect but if you enjoy the Death Wish or Punisher storyline then you will get some enjoyment out of this film. Where I suppose it may fall flat with some people are the villains aren’t exactly fleshed out and are basically your standard ‘bad guys’ and I get that. More and more audiences want to see the mind workings of both good and bad but writer Chad St. John focuses more on the point of view of Riley North. I didn’t have an issue with this as I felt the story had to show her anguish in her loss and how this character would develop.
Jennifer Garner as Riley North was fantastic in the role. The first 30 minutes set up the character as a Mother and Wife and the relationship between Garner, Jeff Hephner as Chris North and Cailey Fleming as Carly North is important and must be believable to the audience to experience the loss and feel sympathetic to Riley and more importantly accept the change in her character. Believe me, Jennifer Garner’s transformation is brilliant and well executed. If you are familiar with the plot or watch a lot of vigilante films then the change doesn’t come as any surprise but how the character is written and how the actor executes the part is where Garner excels. Riley North has lost everything and the justice system has betrayed her. This allows the character to go hell for leather throughout the film but I’m glad they allowed a five year gap before her return to seek justice as her skills and tactics are very impressive.
The relationship between John Gallagher Jr’s Detective Stan Carmichael and John Ortiz’s Detective Moises Beltran is also another key element in the film that I would like to have seen developed a little more. As partners there is almost nothing there in any form of relationship and the characters come off as they have been forced together by their superiors. John Gallagher Jr is a terrific actor and I enjoyed seeing him play Emmett in 10 Cloverfield Lane back in 2016. His portrayal of Carmichael is almost a good cop who is restrained by fear of the Cartel and the consequences of taking them on. This is mostly suggested at the beginning of the film and Beltran reminds him of this. Ortiz is another fine actor and perhaps plays second fiddle to Gallagher Jr’s character. Ironically the last film I saw Ortiz in was The Cloverfield Paradox from this year. Both characters turn up at in the aftermath of each crime scene and the way both these characters are portrayed aren’t all they seem (spoiler free review here, so I’ll say no more on this)
I was glad to see Pierre Morel directing this film as I enjoyed his Directorial style in “Taken”. The Frenchman can combine the action with “to the point” dialogue and emotion without bogging us down with over dramatising the scene. I found the killing of the husband and daughter scene fast and effective from a story telling point of view. Some might say that it may have lacked enough emotion but personally I felt it handled it well. I got it. They are dead and have been killed in front of the Mother / Wife. I didn’t need a slow motion montage of memories and tears at this stage. We would get that in her quieter moments throughout the film. Morel is excellent at not lingering on the moment too long and I found his decision making in the pacing of the opening 30 minutes just right.
Overall “Peppermint” is a good film. Garner is playing the role out of her skin and it’s great to see the actress at the forefront of a film of this genre. The audience can feel her range of emotions throughout the story and it’s definitely the strongest element to the film. The pacing is frantic and the action is on point thanks to Morel’s direction. The villains are perhaps a little two dimensional if I was nitpicking but it didn’t bother me that much as the main character Riley was fleshed out and developed by the writer. Recommended.