Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Movie Review: Peppermint

Peppermint ** ½ / *****
Directed by: Pierre Morel.
Written by: Chad St. John.
Starring: Jennifer Garner (Riley), John Gallagher Jr. (Detective Stan Carmichael), John Ortiz (Detective Moises Beltran), Juan Pablo Raba (Diego Garcia), Annie Ilonzeh (FBI Agent Lisa Inman), Jeff Hephner (Chris North), Cailey Fleming (Carly), Eddie Shin (FBI Special Agent Li), Method Man (Narcotics Detective Barker), Tyson Ritter (Homeless Sam), Ian Casselberry (Cortez), Richard Cabral (Salazar), Johnny Ortiz (Torres), Michael Reventar (Ortega), Pell James (Peg), Jeff Harlan (Judge James Stephens),Kyla-Drew (Maria), Gustavo Quiroz (Jose), Michael Mosley (Henderson).
I was shocked to learn last week that apparently because I’m a “leftist” I cannot possibly like a violent revenge movie. That’s bullshit – I’ve loved revenge movies for years, and probably always will. There is something viscerally exciting about them – one man (and it’s usually a man) taking on a group of people who did them wrong, and slaughtering the lot of them. No, I wouldn’t support that in real life – that would be insanity – but on screen, it’s exciting and fun and entertaining when done well. Hell, even when it’s not done particularly well – and Pierre Morel’s Peppermint is not done particularly well – there is still something about the basic premise that works. Peppermint is kind of a fun movie – especially if you don’t think about it too much. If you do, the logic problems that often come in these movies becomes clear – not to mention that it is a movie about a white woman killing mostly Hispanic men. Yes, there are drug dealers – but the movie seems like it was designed to appeal to people who are convinced that MS-13 is coming for them and their family in the suburbs. They aren’t.
In Peppermint, Jennifer Garner plays Riley North, a suburban wife and mother – not from the rich part of town, but certainly not poor. She works in a bank – her husband is a mechanic, and they have a beautiful young daughter. Her main problems are dealing with bitchy fellow moms and working too long hours. Her husband wants them to get ahead – and briefly considers teaming up with a friend to rob a drug dealer – he doesn’t go through with it, but word leaks anyway, and that drug dealer, Diego Garcia (Juan Pablo Raba) wants to make an example of him. A drive-by shooting ends with both her husband and daughter dead. And when the system fails her – corrupt cops, corrupt lawyers, corrupt judges, etc. – Riley disappears for five years – but when she comes back, she does so with a vengeance. And anyone who had anything to do with her family’s death is going to pay.
Jennifer Garner is well cast in this role. She has the ability to look soft and fragile enough in the beginning to get you on your side, but is convincing as an ass-kicker as well. The movie doesn’t show that transition – that would be the hard part – but in the two veins she has to play, she does it well enough. She’s the only one with a real character to play here – everyone else is a symbol or a caricature, or else are used by the movie to try and fool us as the movie goes along - it doesn’t really work, because we don’t really care about the two cops – played by John Gallagher Jr. and John Ortiz), but they make the effort. As for the various Mexican drug dealers, they aren’t given anything to play, other than being menacing – and to be honest, they don’t do that very well.
The film was director by Pierre Morel, who directed the first (and best, although that’s a relative term) of the Taken movies, and a few other B-level action movies. As a director, he’s competent – but not a whole lot more. None of the action sequences in the film really rise to the level of anything special – but they’re done well enough. The same is true of the movie as a whole – there is nothing special here, but it’s decent enough to make Peppermint an okay time waster – something to do on a Sunday afternoon as you fold laundry.

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