Mladen and Del review ‘Peppermint’

Image courtesy of STX Films.

“Peppermint” Starring Jennifer Garner, John Ortiz, John Gallagher Jr., and others. Directed by Pierre Morel. 101 minutes. Rated R. Netflix.

Mladen’s take

Badass beauty Charlize Theron, a.k.a. Aeon Flux, Imperator Furiosa, Lorraine Broughton, etc., has serious competition. Who? Badass Beauty Jennifer Garner as Riley North in the pretty good Netflix flick “Peppermint.”

“Peppermint” has its weaknesses. Among those are its cliché good-guy/gal-seeks-rightful-revenge plot, a bit of maudlin nostalgia, the not infrequent appearances of the apparition of a murdered daughter, woke commentary on poverty, and the origin of the movie’s title. I’m sure even curmudgeonly Del, who, paradoxically, wants humanity in his movies, will agree with me on that. However, none of the above comes close to diminishing Garner’s exquisite performance as a mother pursuing justice very, very violently and the neat double-cross about two-thirds into the exactly correct runtime for this film.

I urge patience when you start watching this movie. The first third or so of the movie is dedicated to establishing the bad guys, a corrupt justice system, and the power and allure of money. The really good stuff starts with North’s takedown of a drunkard father in a convenience store. Loved it and the moral. It’s here that we get our first glimpse of the glib, witty, and rage-infused North. Garner delivers her lines convincingly. She metes righteousness in correct proportions. The shitty daddy is merely threatened with a 9 mm pistol stuck in his mouth. The drug-dealing gangbangers get the opportunity to meet bullets and shotgun pellets up close and personal. In between, North manages to avenge the slight of coquettish rich lady. The insult was delivered when North’s husband and daughter were still alive. North has a good memory, along with a body and temperament to take and deliver punishment.

Yes, “Peppermint” has its doses of bodies absorbing stunning injuries and the obligatory self-repairs of deep lacerations or punctures. I understand and sympathize with the troupe. I don’t know. Maybe from here on I should just rationalize moviedom abuse of the body and moviedom’s interpretation of how much abuse a body can absorb as the consequence of surging adrenaline. If you’re running with a dozen bullet holes through you or fighting with your guts spilling onto the sidewalk, it’s simply a matter of fact that your body hasn’t yet recognized that it’s dying. Hell, I don’t know why people are making such a fuss about legalizing recreational use of marijuana or other drugs countrywide. Give me synthetic adrenaline, damn it.

So, forget about Garner as “Elektra.” That’s polluted water, caused by the imbecile Trump and his administration of fools, under the bridge. “Peppermint” is Garner’s re-introduction as an action star. And, it works.

I was happy to see John Gallagher Jr. as Detective Stan Carmichael in “Peppermint.” You may remember Gallagher for his excellent portrayal of Emmet in the very good “10 Cloverfield Lane.” Gallagher’s Carmichael is a bit dopey, somewhat a slob, but likeable. He serves nicely as part of the narrative that explains Riley’s metamorphosis, while playing an important role in the story, as well. 

Finally, there’s nothing special about the score for “Peppermint.” I interpret it as techno-poppy and raucous, but it failed to make an impression. Fortunately, neither did the score distract or diminish the film.

“Peppermint” gets a B. Garner gets a strident A. That would’ve been an A+ had she not balked. See the movie and you’ll know what I mean. There’s no way you or Del will disagree.

Del’s take

As of this writing “Peppermint” is “No. 9 in the U.S.,” according to Netflix. I tip my hat to the streaming giant. Americans do love their lists, and a list of who’s watching what on Netflix is sure to fire up page views for the lesser lights among its offerings.

Except it’s not really a “top 10 on Netflix” list. It’s a “top 10 on Netflix that are relevant to you” list, which means it’s pointless as a barometer of popularity. Yup. The algogremlin strikes again.

And here I was thinking “Peppermint” was a top 10 movie in the whole U.S. of A. despite its paltry $53 million box office take and 12 percent Rotten Tomatoes score. Why? Why is a 2-year-old movie suddenly popular on Netflix?

Turns out it isn’t.

I think Mladen has damaged his brain with all the “Ice Spiders” and “Snow Sharks” garbage he watches. On the luminosity scale “Peppermint” ranks somewhere between a searchlight and a miniature Christmas bulb. I lean toward the latter because truth be told, it’s little more than “Death Wish” retold without a trace of charm. No way should this movie be anything more than a time-killer when a body is waiting to be called into the doctor’s office for a hemorrhoidectomy.

Mladen also neglected to summarize the plot, which is this: Riley North sees her hubby and daughter gunned down by drug dealers because hubby (Jeff Hephner) refused to participate in a drug deal. The bad guys are caught, but the corrupt justice system lets them skate. North decides to take matters into her own hands.

Sound familiar?

Garner delivers a kickass performance, and for that I’m grateful. It made the movie for me. I do enjoy watching women like Charlize Theron and Rooney Mara mete justice to those who deserve a swift bust in the chops.

Also, there were some excellent visuals and fight sequences, particular the one in which the roles are reversed and it is the drug dealers’ bodies swinging from a bridge. I’d like to note Garner’s character was not one of those indestructible super-creatures who never gets stabbed, shot or beaten up. She suffers her share of damage, though her recovery time is a lot quicker than mine would be.

But everything else about “Peppermint” you’ve seen before – in my case over and over again. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. I can watch the same movie, or iterations of such, many times as long as they’re well done. In this case the plot relied too heavily on suspension of disbelief and hand-of-God intervention to leave me with a favorable impression.

I referred Mladen to “Peppermint” because I know he likes brain splatter and infrastructure destruction, although I don’t recall seeing either in “Christmas Chronicles 2.” But should you watch “Peppermint”?

My answer would be a qualified “maybe.”

It’s a simple-minded yet decent action movie with a hero who does not dodge all the bullets. But the plot is hackneyed and everything works out a little too adroitly to be taken seriously. I would look at it as a cartoonish rendition of “Skyfall” or “The French Connection.”

Going into “Peppermint” with that attitude will make it a more entertaining film.

Garner’s performance is a solid B+, but overall the movie gets a C from me.

Mladen Rudman is a former journalist and technical writer. Del Stone Jr. is a former journalist and author.


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