Peppermint is a near-perfect example of the revenge film. It has non-stop action with a noble motive and satisfies a primal desire to see justice done.
The story begins with a shot of a car rocking in a parking lot because 2 people are fighting. The woman kills the man and dumps him in the trunk. Flash back to 5 years ago when this same woman was a normal mother helping her daughter sell cookies for the Fireflies. After Riley North (Jennifer Garner) finishes working at the bank, she comes home to her family, husband Chris (Jeff Hephner) and daughter Carly (Cailey Fleming). They decide to go to a carnival to celebrate Carly’s birthday.
Unbeknownst to Riley, Chris has been having some financial trouble at his body shop. He goes in with his friend Mickey (Chris Johnson) to be the driver in a heist. Later Chris reconsiders and declines the offer.
However, Mickey’s job involved robbing the drug lord Diego Garcia (Juan Pablo Raba). Mickey is executed. A henchman has been watching the North house and is told by Garcia to make an example of Chris.
At the carnival, the three Norths have just purchased ice cream when the gangsters kill Chris and Carly and injure Riley in a drive-by shooting. When Riley wakes up in the hospital, Detective Carmichael (John Gallagher, Jr.) asks if she will identify the shooters and she easily does so.
While awaiting trial, a strange man, who turns out to be the shooters’ defense attorney as we discover later, enters Riley’s home and offers her an envelope full of money to recant her ID’s of the suspects. She refuses.
The preliminary hearing is a farce. Because Riley has been taking medication for her grief, her testimony is discounted and the three laughing thugs are set free. Riley freaks out and is restrained in an ambulance for transport to a mental hospital but escapes. We last see her in this time period running for all she is worth to freedom.
Back in the present, Detective Carmichael and his partner Detective Beltran (John Ortiz) are summoned when the three shooters in the North case are found slain and suspended upside down on the spokes of a Ferris wheel at a carnival. The next thing they know, the judge in Riley’s case is tortured and blown up in his house.
Two FBI agents, Inman (Annie Ilonzeh) and Li (Eddie Shin), bring the detectives up to speed on what they have discovered about Riley in the last 5 years, viz. that she has become an elusive master of weaponry and martial arts. She took money from the bank where she worked and is on videotape recently robbing a gun shop. An APB is put out and when the public finds out her backstory, she becomes a folk hero on social media. Meanwhile, Riley ramps up her game and begins a major trail of death and destruction.
Nearly every person has suffered some situation, whether large or small, in which justice has not been served. As a result, there is something viscerally satisfying in seeing a scenario where justice is denied and then remedied in such a decisive manner as this film. As such, to nitpick the plot is to miss the point of this exercise. We are there to see revenge carried out.
The picture does not waste time explaining in detail where Riley has been the last 5 years to make her the supreme killer that she has become. This is a blessing since we can concentrate on the no-nonsense exploits of this woman righting wrongs.
Acting is not the strong suit of this film, although there is some nice humorous dialogue now and then. Jennifer Garner does an adequate job depicting Riley, although the character could be played by almost any actress with gumption.
The movie is directed by Pierre Morel, who directed the first Taken movie. The editing, cinematography and action scenes are top-notch. The film just flies forward as Riley goes on her rampage. Both the score and the song selections are excellent.
It becomes difficult to quantify how many people Riley ends up killing since it is a very large number. I found the film to be captivating even though such a story is unlikely to ever occur in real life. In fact, there is almost a sense of magical realism that someone could do so much damage. This sense of otherworldliness is heightened by a mural on Skid Row of Riley as an avenging angel and by Riley’s visions of her deceased daughter.
The ending was perfect. I left feeling a little better that justice was served, if only in fiction. Four out of 5 stars.
Peppermint is a high impact, Jennifer Garner led, action thriller which tells the story of young mother Riley North (Garner) who awakens from a coma after her husband and daughter are killed in a brutal attack on the family. When the system frustratingly shields the murderers from justice, Riley sets out to transform herself from citizen to urban guerilla. Channeling her frustration into personal motivation, she spends years in hiding honing her mind, body and spirit to become an unstoppable force – eluding the underworld, the LAPD and the FBI — as she methodically delivers her personal brand of justice.
Cast: Jennifer Garner, John Ortiz, John Gallagher Jr., Juan Pablo Raba
Writer: Chad St. John
Director: Pierre Morel