This year’s benchmark for exciting, suspenseful action thrillers is easily “Mission: Impossible: Fallout.” With a star-studded cast of affable big-screen achievers, the Tom Cruise drama ducks and punches all the right movie moves—blistering action sequences and a fast-paced narrative that keeps the audience on the edge of their seats. Now fast-forward five weeks and we find the always delightful Jennifer Garner with top-billing in “Peppermint” as a vigilante surrounded by B-list actors in a storyline that never feels genuine or plausible.
Lacking comedic relief and in-depth character development, “Peppermint” leaves Garner to fend for herself in an underwhelming script with a simple follow-the-dots film journey and ending. As a wife and mother who witnesses her husband and young daughter gunned down by cartel members, Garner’s Riley North character miraculously goes from a sheepish, nonconfrontational rule follower to the next version of Liam Neeson in the “Taken” series.
Without proper attention and explanation given to Garner’s newfound skills at handling rare weapons and physical fighting skills that would leave any U.S. Navy SEAL impressed, “Peppermint” skips over the most dramatic, life-altering moments of Garner’s transformation.
Too neat and tidy throughout, the plotline for “Peppermint” dulls as Garner never seems to find an opponent able to keep up with her volley of kicks, punches, and expert marksman bullet rounds. Without a sidekick or someone to find solace from, Garner’s deadly reemergence into the justice system that acquitted the killers of her family feels less enthralling.
“Peppermint” does gain momentum half way through its lackluster trip, after we accept that director Pierre Morel isn’t going to give us more background information on Riley North and her dead family members. With no investment in any character outside of perhaps Garner’s modest grieving role, viewers can sit back and watch the violence accumulate.
This film had the chance to be very good. A deep dive into the North family with supportive friends and relatives standing up for (or covering for) Garner could’ve given this movie the holistic action thrills of more memorable dramas. Her biggest reveal is the acquisition of mixed martial arts combat fighting skills and a prowess around firearms. The unexplained revolution from easy-going, devoted family member to world-class killer in only five years would’ve been a better story. Garner single-handedly carries this watchable revenge film, but the trip to find justice could have used a team effort and more investment in explaining who is Riley North?