Tag Archives: John Gallagher Jr.

Peppermint (2018) Blu-Ray Review By D.M. Anderson

Peppermint

Director: Pierre Morel
Writer: Chad St. John
Stars: Jennifer Garner, John Gallagher Jr., John Ortiz

Brash, bloody and shamelessly manipulative, Peppermint is exactly want you think it’s gonna be. And if you’re reading this, that also means it’s exactly want you’re hoping for. The movie may not have a lot of substance – or brains – but it is a lot of fun.

The peppermint of the title refers to the flavour of ice cream chosen by a little girl just before she and her father are gunned down in a drive-by shooting. The wife & mother, Riley North (Jennifer Garner), is shot in the head, but still able to identify the shooters, who are soldiers of notorious drug lord Diego Garcia (Juan Pablo Raba). It turns out the husband was considering teaming with a buddy to steal Garcia’s cash, but backed out at the last minute. Too late to avoid Garcia’s wrath, though.

Because the judge and both lawyers at the trial are on Garcia’s payroll – the unscrupulous defence attorney paints Riley as an unreliable witness due to her use of painkillers – the shooters are all acquitted. Riley understandably loses her mind in the courtroom. A crooked judge orders her to be restrained and sent to a psych ward. However, she escapes and disappears.

Five years later, Riley returns to Los Angeles to get the justice she never got in court. Now a highly-trained, one-woman wrecking crew, she goes after everyone responsible…the lawyers, the judge and Garcia’s entire operation, as well as anyone she comes across who happens to be a horrible human being. In the meantime, Riley becomes sort-of a local hero because, unlike Paul Kersey in Death Wish, everyone is well-aware of her story due to social media. Two cops and an FBI agent follow the trail of bodies to try to stop the mayhem, but even though we learn of an informant on the force – you’ll easily figure out who – they are mostly inconsequential to the story other than providing exposition.

Both narratively and aesthetically, Peppermint treads familiar ground. There’s little in the way of tension and nary a scene we won’t see coming from a mile away. The film is also loaded with implausibilities and plot contrivances. However, it does push all the right emotional buttons. By having Riley’s misery increasingly compounded by various scumbags throughout the film, the numerous scenes where they get their comeuppance are gleefully rousing and fittingly brutal. I do, however, take issue with the decision to gloss over the death of one of its most hateful characters.

Speaking of which, the characters themselves are generally one-note, especially Gracia, your garden-variety seething ball of viciousness. The important exception is Riley, who’s easy for any parent to empathise with. Garner makes a welcome return to the action genre with an intense and convincing physical performance. The action itself is well-staged, bloody and generally pretty exciting, even during some of the more outlandish moments. As someone who finds a perverse amount of guilty pleasure in revenge movies, I found it quite satisfying (then again, I also enjoyed the recent remake of Death Wish more than I probably should have, so maybe I’m the wrong guy to ask).

Is Peppermint a great film? Not by a long shot. Never intended to stimulate the intellect, it mostly delivers as promised, sticking to the tried-and-true with a story that’s been told before and doing it with a lot of flare. If nothing else, this is a film that certainly knows its audience. Anyone who enjoys a heaping helping of revenge (with a big side of deja vu) are encouraged to check it out.

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Peppermint (2018) Movie Review By Stephen McLaughlin

Peppermint

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. 

Hush (2016) Movie Review by John Walsh

HUSH

Director: Mike Flanagan
Writers: Mike Flanagan,  Kate Siegel
Stars: Kate Siegel,  John Gallagher Jr.,  Michael Trucco

Hush is a refreshingly different take on the home invasion horror sub-genre from Mike Flanagan. It’s not got the most complex storyline you’ll ever come across, but it’s an exhilarating, little psychological thriller of a film nonetheless that features a small, but brilliant cast.

It introduces our main protagonist early doors, just as she’s preparing dinner and Flanagan goes out his way to highlight the fairly isolated nature of Maddie’s new life, living in a small, modern, cabin style house, out in the middle of a unnamed woods. He then does something very clever by completely removing sound to make the viewer aware that she’s deaf.

This is something which is leaned upon several times later in the film to really put us in Maddie’s shoes, and despite being such a simple little thing, it’s really quite effective. The first twenty minutes or so really serve as an introduction to the environment, her disabilities (deaf and mute), a pet cat with a predilection for disappearing when bad stuff is going down and a particularly impressive smoke alarm, which of course, you just know is going to come in use later.

When the villain of the piece finally does arrive on the scene, he does it with a bang, it would be fair to say, shooting Maddie’s new friend Sarah with an arrow and then brutally stabbing her. My initial thoughts during this were, bloody hell thats harsh and more than little disturbing, before thinking to myself, is it really necessary to stab someone that many times? Apparently it is. I digress though, following this disturbing murder, which by the way happens at one of the many sheer glass doors and in front of an oblivious Maddie, our creepy masked assailant, aptly named the ‘man’ because a man he is, changes targets and decides to head inside.

One of the creepier moments in the film happens around this point when he stands behind an unaware Maddie with a knife just before she begins a FaceTime session with another friend. Sneaking out of shot, he grabs her phone, taking various snaps of her and then sends them to the MacBook she’s using, which causes a horrified Maddie to become aware of the masked intruder now mooching around in her house.

What follows is a pretty standard horror premise with the intruder, who by this point has now been locked out the house (and my god is there a lot of doors and windows in this house) and revealed his face, stalking the under siege Maddie, walking round the house again and again like a predator stalking its prey, waiting for the right time to move. He even says as much, tauntingly telling her “Good. Now let’s have some fun” after removing his mask and if this film is anything, then it’s definitely fun.

Sure, it has all the usual horror stereotypes, like when she decides to inexplicably leave the house, hide under the porch and then make an unsuccessful run for it. And if that’s not bad enough, clearly having not learnt her lesson, she goes for a walk out on the roof and along some squeaking guttering, earning an arrow to the leg. Thankfully, this second ill advised trip isn’t completely in vain though, as she manages to snatch the crossbow after performing an arrow avoiding move that Neo would have been proud of and knocking her assailant down.

Things after this point really go up a notch, particularly the gore, after the arrival of an inquisitive John, looking for his now dead wife. The gore isn’t gruesomely bad, but it’s there and it needed to be too I suppose. Without giving much else away, because the final half hour of this film should be enjoyed first hand and not read about. I’ll just go ahead and say that it’s the most satisfied I’ve been to see a character die in a long, long time. That’s shouldn’t be too much of a spoiler.

Kate Siegel is tremendous in this film, she really is. It can’t be easy acting out the part of a deaf and mute person, especially when you’re not afflicted with the disabilities and not having those senses is unfathomable to those blessed with them. Without any real dialogue (she had some in the form an inner voice), most of the emotion and acting had to be done with her facial expression and eyes, and she really did nail it. John Gallagher Jr was equally brilliant as the unnamed ‘man’. I’ll admit I hadn’t really heard of him until I watched 10 Cloverfield Lane, another film featuring a small cast and psychological thriller elements, but that’s changed now and I’m glad for it. He manages to pull of a menacing, mentally unstable, sicko vibe, whilst also injecting some intermittent moments of dark humour into the film.

The highlights of which include, acting like a ventriloquist with a corpse to making a witty, humorous reference to the danger of smoking after just snuffing out the ex-smokers life. The other two weren’t really in the film long enough to pass judgement. I’ll give an honourable shout to the cat who turned up at the end like a gangsta and chilled on the porch surveying the aftermath.

I loved what Mike Flanagan did here in taking a heavily used premise and turning it on its head with the deaf element. He got the absolute maximum he could’ve out of the story and actors/actresses, delivering an intense and enjoyable film in doing so. There was a few niggles. Firstly, did Apple sponsor this film or what? Because damn that was the most in your face product placement I think ever witnessed in a film. I’m an Apple fanboy, but still, come on. Secondly, was there any need for that amount of windows and doors in a house that size? Still though, anal niggles aside, I have absolutely no qualms in recommending this film. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) Movie Review by John Walsh

10 CLOVERFIELD

Director: Dan Trachtenberg
Writers: Josh Campbell (story),  Matthew Stuecken (story)
Stars: John Goodman,  Mary Elizabeth Winstead,  John Gallagher Jr.

A taut and thrilling, psychological horror acting as a sequel to and sharing the same universe as Cloverfield (2008), from then feature film debutant Dan Trachtenberg. It follows the claustrophobic and intense experience of three people inside a doomsday bunker. Howard (John Goodman), the owner and architect behind its design, has been preparing for a potential armageddon style attack for years and, with the help of his neighbour Emmett (John Gallagher Jr), has created quite the cosy, little retreat, complete with air locked doors, a filtration system and plentiful supplies of food. Despite his apparent generosity in saving their lives, doubts remain throughout regarding his motives and whether he’s being entirely truthful or not.

Opening with the frantic and distraught Louisiana native, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) packing her bags after an argument with her husband and driving out into the night. The shrieking score from Bear McCreary builds to a crescendo, as she’s harassed on the phone by her partner, before hitting a skid on the road (or is she forced off?), flying down an embankment and losing consciousness. When she awakes, it’s not in her overturned car, but a strange, dinky, breeze block decorated room, on a painfully thin bed that my Labrador would turn it’s nose up at. Chained to a wall, she soon meets Howard, who slides a plate full of food her way, before reassuring her that the chain is for her safety, merely temporary and that he saved her life. He then breaks the terrible news that the she won’t be able to get a signal on her phone, she’s trying at this point, as there’s been an attack above and everyone is more than likely dead. Appearing a little disbelieving at this news, and who could blame her, she tries pleading with Howard, but he soon leaves her to ponder on her predicament again, after a crashing noise is heard outside the room.

Shortly afterwards, Michelle is introduced to Emmett, who has seems to have an unwavering belief in Howard’s attack theory, and the three are soon sat down at dinner. The dark side of the latter’ personality is quickly highlighted in this tense, awkward, introductory scene between the three as he angrily berates Michelle for appearing to get a little too cosy with Emmett. This isn’t helped any when she attacks him and attempts to escape, grabbing his keys and making a dash for the door. What she witnesses at the entrance gives her second thoughts however and she despondently returns to safety below. The film then enters an extended middle act in which the three seem to live away amiably for a reasonable amount of time, reading books, playing games and doing jigsaw puzzles to help pass away the tedious wait for the air to clear, this interrupted intermittently by the occasional rumbling from above, some minor emergencies below or a sporadic bout of rage from Howard. Despite his hospitality and even rare moments of kindness, doubts continue to gnaw away at the other two, who’ve bonded and developed a strong friendship by this stage.

These appear to be vindicated when Michelle discovers a message scratched into another escape hatch, whilst being tasked with restarting the air filtration system. This along with two earrings belonging to a girl who disappeared a couple of years earlier, causes the pair to try and manufacture a way of escaping their now seemingly deluded and potentially deranged captor. Ultimately, as you’d expect, this leads to a confrontation with Howard, with Emmett taking the blame for everything, making a tragic sacrifice to save Michelle. This sparks the film into a fairly chaotic final act as the latter, who has made a rudimentary gas mask and suit attempts to escape the clutch of the determined Howard, and upon doing so, makes a startling discovery. The final ten to fifteen minutes of this film are so different to the rest that it almost feels like a different genre at the end, but thankfully it’s cleverly handled (it could have been disastrous in the wrong hands) and the visuals, which are pretty special for different reasons throughout, are on point to provide a fitting end. I say fitting because Michelle seems almost relieved to be away from the psychological powder-keg below, this despite the horrors above the ground being the very definition of ‘out of the frying pan and into the fire’ and it perfectly marries with the more sci-fi setting of Cloverfield.

John Goodman is immense in this film. He’s a fantastic character actor and he plays the part of the villainous and lamentable Howard to perfection. His unpredictable mood swings added some real anxiety to the proceedings as you just never knew how he was going to react in a given situation. This was perfectly encapsulated when the trio were playing an innocent game together and the tension was almost unbearable. Winstead was fantastic too as Michelle, sharing the leading role with Goodman to real effect and perfectly showcasing the characters keen intelligence, quick thinking and determination, grabbing the bull by the horns in the final act and turning into a full blown Sarah Connor-esque heroine. Gallagher Jr as Emmett added a different flavour to the dynamic between the trio and despite having less screen time or effect on the story as a whole, his too was a pretty decent performance. I really can’t fault any of them here.

I’ve been meaning to get round to watching this film, though for some reason I kept putting it off, but I’m so glad I finally got round to it. It was a thoroughly enjoyable watch and my attention never really dipped at any stage, which is a real testament to the writers; Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken and Damian Chazelle who produced an engrossing, tense story, not to mention the beautiful, smooth visuals from Jeff Cutter and some excellent direction by Trachtenberg. Highly recommended viewing from me.