What kind of vigilante thriller doesn’t give you the satisfaction of watching the heroine take out the thugs who murdered her family? A movie as brainless and incompetent as ‘Peppermint’. Star Jennifer Garner must have thought this flick would do for her career what director Pierre Morel’s ‘Taken’ did for Liam Neeson’s, but the result is bad enough to make any actor take an alias.
Garner plays Riley North, who watches her husband and little daughter get machine-gunned by three minions of a drug lord who her husband’s friend tried to rip off. A sleazy lawyer and a paid-off judge assure that the trio won’t face justice and almost get Riley committed to a psych ward, but she escapes. Cut to five years later: The killers’ corpses are already hanging from a Ferris wheel (huh?), and we never even see the lawyer’s fate. Instead of taking any meaningful vengeance, Riley spends most of her screen time blowing away the kingpin’s anonymous underlings. And rather than making any attempt to give Riley an inner life, or explicating her transition from suburban mom to lethal assassin, ‘Peppermint’ wastes time with boring scenes of hapless law-enforcement types trying to track her down.
You know that clichéd visual trick where the image double-exposes and skitters around the screen like the projector is suffering a stroke? Morel uses it far too often in ‘Peppermint’, in place of bringing any pace or actual style that might have distracted from its many implausibilities. Even the significance of the title isn’t properly established. The only thing ‘Peppermint’ does accomplish, after ‘Proud Mary’, ‘Traffik’ and ‘Breaking In’, is to cement 2018 as the year Hollywood proved itself incapable of turning out a decent female-led action film.