'Peppermint' Review

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2008’s “Taken” starred Liam Neeson as a father dealing with the “worst nightmare involving your child”. That film and subsequent franchise re-vamped Neeson’s career, elevating him to iconic action movie star status.

Now, “Taken” director Pierre Morel presents the mother’s perspective of an even worse situation in “Peppermint”. The revenge thriller features the return to the action movie genre for Jennifer Garner. It could put the likable actress on a similar career path as Neeson.

Garner’s Riley North witnesses her husband and young daughter brutally murdered in a drive-by shooting. When the gang members responsible are allowed to walk free North decided to go off the grid and plan her revenge. On the 5-year anniversary of the murders she returns to LA, ready for war.

Jennifer Garner and one of her victims.
Jennifer Garner and one of her victims.

On the surface, “Peppermint” seems like a number of other recent vigilante films: “Taken”, “The Equalizer”, “John Wick”, “Death Wish”, et. al. The obvious difference, of course, is the female spin. And it works thanks to the commanding presence and performance by Garner. Fans of 2005’s “Elektra” will be overjoyed to see her kicking ass again. Her last legit action role was in 2007’s “The Kingdom”. Since them we’ve mostly seen her in TV commercials, family dramas and in the tabloids with husband/ex Ben Affleck.

In “Peppermint” that familiar persona works perfectly early – and as contrast when she decides to go rogue. The action scenes do begin feel a bit extreme as the bodies start to pile-up, but Morel deserves credit for keeping the killings based in reality. Unlike other attempts in the genre, what Garner’s character does isn’t beyond belief.

There are a few cheesy script elements and a couple of unintentionally hilarious moments involving minor characters. But for the most part – the story, when you break it down, actually works (including a couple nice twists sprinkled in).

At one point in “Peppermint”, the Capital One spokeswoman actually asks a man for his wallet (a “breaking the fourth wall” nod to the camera would’ve been fun, though inappropriate). But the scene does offer a solid piece of advice: If you ever run into Garner and she asks “What’s in Your Wallet?”, tell her… and fast.

Jackson Murphy: Emmy Award-winning Film Critic / Entertainment Reporter. Broadcast Film Critics Assoc. (@CriticsChoice), SAG-AFTRA (@SAGAwards)