The revenge thriller genre has always been a staple in Hollywood’s release cycle. It started in the ‘70s with Death Wish and slowly progressed into a genre that found a heroic every person taking on a group of horrible people that wronged them in some way. The genre found a recent boost by the surprise hit John Wick with its use of extensive world building and brutally violent action so could Peppermint be the Jane Wick in the genre?
Synopsis: Riley North awakens from a coma after surviving a brutal attack that killed her husband and daughter. When the system shields the murderers from justice, Riley sets out to transform herself from citizen to urban guerrilla. Channeling frustration into motivation, the young widow spends years in hiding — honing her mind, body and spirit to become an unstoppable force. Eluding the underworld, the police and the FBI, Riley embarks on a deadly quest to deliver her own personal brand of punishment. (Lakeshore Entertainment)
Starring: Jennifer Garner, John Gallagher Jr., and Juan Pablo Raba
Writer: Chad St. John
Director: Pierre Morel
Rating: 14A (Canada)/R (United States)
Running Time: 102mins
The film follows the story of Riley North (Garner) who wants nothing else than to give her daughter Carly (Cailey Fleming) the best birthday ever. Celebrating at the local Christmas festival, Riley’s husband Chris (Jeff Hephner) has his past decisions catch up to him causing a deadly drive-by shooting that shakes their family. After waking up from a coma, Riley tries to find justice for her family, but realizes the system is corrupt and tries to have her institutionalized. She manages to escape and disappear for five years, training to take down Diego Garcia (Raba), his entire organization and the corrupt officials who wronged her.
The interesting thing about revenge thrillers is that they navigate a very fine line. On one side, they act as a cathartic experience that allows the audience to watch a victimized protagonist deliver justice to those who destroyed their life; but on the other side it tries to justify such immoral acts for the sake of saying that bad actions are acceptable against worse people. The story of Peppermint is fairly generic and predictable as it follows a mother who goes after a drug cartel, but thankfully it narrowly avoids the white woman killing people of color trope by adding a layer of corrupt officials who are equally to blame for her trauma.
However, the story is still entertaining thanks to its intense action sequences and touching emotional moments. This is seen through the director’s ability to blend action and dark comedy keeping a great tone and pace throughout the story. Unfortunately, the story does play it a little safe as the gore and violence is not as graphic as John Wick and it could have benefited from some more shocking moments. The drama may not always hit, but it manages to work thanks to the character of Riley North and Garner’s performance.
This film hinges on the protagonist being able to connect with the audience and with the situation she is in. This woman has to be believable, not only as a strong and loving maternal figure, but a grief stricken mother who will do anything to deliver karma to those who wronged her. She is not some sociopath who becomes obsessed with murder, but a victim who is forced to take on this burden and what is stronger than a mother’s love? This is the perfect role for Garner. She is able to move between scenes seamlessly, proving she is more than just the typecasted mother figure, but a badass action star as well.
Peppermint is a by-the-books vigilante action thriller that finds itself saved by some motherly love. While the story is safe and predictable, filled with old, offensive archetypes and tropes, the commanding presence of Jennifer Garner and the brutal action sequences make this a satisfying revenge tale. It is exactly what you would expect from a film in this genre.
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