I was raised on big budget and B movie action flicks. I revelled in the spectacle of films like DIE HARD and LETHAL WEAPON as well as revenge films like DEATH WISH starring Charles Bronson. From the first preview of PEPPERMINT, I had a pretty good idea what was going to happen in the film and while I wasn’t particularly hyped to see it, I did decide to give it a shot.
The entire ride back home from the theatre, instead of thinking about the movie I just saw, I kept thinking about synonyms for the word REGRET.
PEPPERMINT is the story of Riley North. Riley (Jennifer Garner) is a suburban Los Angeles wife and mother who works at a bank. She and her husband Chris (Jeff Hephner) are dealing with financial issues while they raise their daughter Carly (Cailey Fleming). After Chris is offered an opportunity from his shady buddy, he considers it. Unfortunately, the offer is to be a driver for his buddy who is planning to rob a drug dealer. Not just any drug dealer, THE drug dealer Diego Garcia.
Chris decides to back out of the plan, but it’s too late. Chris’ buddy has been tortured by Garcia and the dealer has put a hit out on Chris. With the North family at their local carnival having a good time, Riley’s family is slaughtered in a drive by which results in her getting shot as well. After recovering, she is bombarded with corrupt cops, crooked judges, shady lawyers and has to run for her life. Five years later, she returns with a vengeance.
As a fan of the TV series ALIAS, I was gratified that Jennifer Garner was able to come back to the big screen in a bad ass action role. Unfortunately, she wasn’t given much to work with in in a plot so thin it would float away if breathed on. Not only was the plot thin, but no one seemed to care if anything made sense. Riley escapes police custody, the state and the country after stealing from her bank and no one questions how she developed the skills to evade law enforcement in multiple countries for years. She just shows up five years later with the skills necessary to take on the worst Mexican drug gang in the city.
Apparently Riley has been hitting Garcia’s operation for months, prompting a visit and a threat from the Cartel. A plot point that goes nowhere. Riley has become a folk hero to the people of skid row (even though there is nothing in the film that shows her doing anything for anyone). She has inspired the loyalty and admiration of a couple of homeless kids (even though we never see her interact with them once). She’s become a social media hero (even though there is nothing in the film that shows her doing anything). Also everything you need to know about Riley North and her hero’s journey can be found on the exposition channel because we don’t need to see Riley do anything when we can wait for the exposition channel to explain who she is and what she’s done. (Honestly, everything that was said or revealed about Riley North on television or on the many random screens in the film would have made a much better film than what was shown.)
As for the villains, they are typical uninspired Mexican stereotypes. In fact, every person of colour in the film is either criminal, corrupt, ineffective or indifferent. Of course, the Mexican drug gang leader has statues of the Virgin Mary everywhere that he prays to. Of course, he keeps his woman captive and beats her. Of course, the Latino police detective is suspected to be on the take. No stereotype is left out and it is clear what the filmmakers were trying to say and who they were saying it to.
The action in the film is actually really good and Garner does her best with what little she has to work with, but the movie felt like it was only halfway finished. Plot was the first thing sacrificed, followed immediately by character. The movie is a mess that fails on almost every level with its thin plot, rampant stereotyping and uninspired conclusion. I was disappointed, dissatisfied and annoyed after watching this movie.
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