Peppermint follows the tragic revenge story of Riley (Jennifer Garner), a struggling mother whose husband and daughter are brutally gunned down by crime boss Diego Garcia (Juan Pablo Raba). Garcia believed that Riley’s husband was planning to rob him and his crime syndicate is too powerful to be dismantled by Detective Stan Carmichael (John Gallagher Jr.) and the LAPD, so the killers walk and Riley is committed to an insane asylum. On route to the mental facility, Riley escapes and trains for 5 years to become a badass assassin, intent on taking down Garcia’s entire venture.
As you can clearly see here, the plot similarities with John Wick are apparent. And the film is clearly trying to feed off the waves of popularity of the Keanu Reeves led series. The action is constant and intense, the main character fairly silent and stoic (though Garner’s Riley is a bit snarkier than Reeves’ Wick), and the plot paper thin. Occasionally, this approach works, allowing the film to showcase an interesting piece of action or a colorful line from the main character.
The problem is that Peppermint lacks the fundamental elements that made the John Wick series work: good choreography and editing. The action sequences are choppily edited and shakily shot, falling into a lot of the same pitfalls as the average PG-13 action borefest. If Jennifer Garner put in the same kind of work that Keanu Reeves did for her stunt work, it was wasted by rapid cutting and confusing camerawork. The few times something cool actually happens are severely outweighed by the surrounding blandness.
Without the action spectacle, the movie falls to its lackluster storytelling and character writing. This isn’t to say that these elements are particularly excellent in the John Wick series. But at least those movies have the interesting assassin underground to keep the action-less sequences relatively enthralling. Peppermint features the most barebones of revenge/police corruption stories, the kind of thing we’ve seen 1000 times. A compelling protagonist could have saved the movie, but it seemed like the filmmakers couldn’t decide on the characterization of Garner’s Riley, trying to make her both a stoic badass a la John Wick and a snarky quip machine in the vein of John McClane.
Peppermint is the same boring action movie I’ve come to expect at this point. There really isn’t a lot more I can say about that.