Review: Exploitative 'Peppermint' needs some freshening up

Jennifer Garner is a vigilante out for justice in this trashy action flick

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic
Jennifer Garner in "Peppermint."

Jennifer Garner goes full “Death Wish” – as in the lousy 2018 remake – in “Peppermint,” a low-grade piece of vigilante trash that she should be above.

Garner plays Riley North, a mother who is forced into revenge mode when her husband and 10-year-old daughter are gunned down by drug dealer thugs.

She goes off the grid for five years and fashions herself into a weapons-grade badass, becoming an MMA fighter and an expert in high-powered firearms. She then starts taking out the goons who wronged her, one-by-one.

What she doesn’t expect, in the film’s post-modern social media twist, is that she will become a modern day superhero, with hashtags erected in her honor. (Again, this year’s otherwise forgettable “Death Wish” got there first.)

Garner, who spent five seasons on TV’s “Alias,” knows her way around an action scene, and it’s good to see her playing a tough again after years of conservative mother roles.

But “Peppermint” is not the vehicle for her, and it feels like the sort of C-level action picture that would attract the likes of Halle Berry or Jennifer Lopez.

She’s assisted by a decent supporting cast, including John Gallagher Jr. as a cop whose character makes sense until the script calls for him to make a hail-Mary about face, and character actor John Ortiz as the lead detective on Riley’s case.

“Peppermint” – even the title, a reference to Riley’s daughter’s preferred flavor of ice cream, is half-baked – is full of hacky, would-be hard-boiled dialogue; characters don’t simply die, they “get dead.”

It wants desperately for audiences to think Riley is #cool and to buy into her eye-for-an-eye mentality, which it attempts to justify by positioning her as a mom just doing right by her family. Audiences should know better.




Rated R for strong violence and language throughout

Running time: 102 minutes