If you’re not familiar with the TV show Alias, it aired from 2001 to 2006, was by J.J. Abrams, and starred Jennifer Garner as CIA Double Agent Sydney Bristow. The show was really fun, action packed, and proved Garner was a capable action hero. Since then, she stepped down from action, doing more rom-coms and other styles (Thirteen Going On Thirty is excellent and you should see it if you haven’t). Peppermint marks a return to her action-based roots.
Peppermint follows the story of Riley North, a woman struggling to make ends meet with her husband, Chris, so that they can take care of their little girl, Carly. One day, Riley pisses off the wrong mom in Carly’s scout troop, and that mom calls every other kid in the school to invite them over for a holiday party, knowing Carly’s birthday party is that same day. Because this causes no one to come to Carly’s birthday party, the family heads out to the winter carnival together. Unbeknownst to Riley, earlier in the day, Chris had briefly considered taking a ‘job’ from a friend of his who was planning to rob the head of the local arm of a drug cartel. Chris backs out, stating he has too much to live for. Unfortunately, the cartel found out about it and because they hate when people even think about robbing them, they drive-by kill Chris and Carly, while gravely wounding Riley. Riley is able to pick the three hitmen out of a lineup, but things get worse when the corrupt judge and lawyers allow them to get off with zero punishment. Distraught, Riley takes off, heading off the grid and disappearing.
Five years later, Riley comes back – with a vengeance. Having spent the last five years training and preparing, she step by step works her way through cartel members and associates. The three guys who fired on her husband and daughter? Killed and strung up. The corrupt judge who released them? Blown up in his own house. A random drunk on a bus who is mean to his own kid? Beaten, chastised, and intimidated. The Cartel members who were part of the same group? Some are murdered in a piñata factory, and some are murdered at their house. She keeps running through bad guys as the cops try to keep up with her and stop her.
It’s a really simple story, and it’s executed well. French Director Pierre Morel, who also did Taken and Banlieue B13 (which is really great), drives this very straightforward tale well. Garner is definitely capable, and man – it’s always great to see the bad guys get it.
- Jennifer Garner plays Riley North. She is really fantastic at all Riley’s multiple levels. Once she is left with nothing, she builds herself into a weapon of justice or revenge, depending on your point of view. It’s probably a bit of both. She makes the stunts believable, not to mention the full-out rage.
- John Gallagher Jr. plays Detective Stan Carmichael, the cop who tries to help Riley in the beginning, then catches up with her again in five years.
- John Ortiz plays Detective Moises Beltran, Carmichael’s partner, who spends a suspicious amount of time warning him to avoid going after the cartel.
- Juan Pablo Raba plays Diego Garcia, local head of the cartel – who seems to answer to someone else based in Mexico who we never really get to see. So if Riley were to get away in the end of this, perhaps she and the mystery man would meet up in a sequel.
- Annie Ilonzeh plays FBI Agent Lisa Inman. She and her partner have been keeping loose tabs on Riley in the five missing years, and now that she’s back, they are determined to bring her in before she goes too far.
- Jeff Hephner plays Chris North, who really is only guilty of maybe sort of just thinking about robbing the cartel before he backs out. That was enough to royally piss them off.
- Eddie Shin plays FBI Agent Li, Inman’s partner who has very little to do.
- Method Man plays Narcotics Detective Barker who shows up near the end to help the cops step in and try to stop Riley from killing Garcia so that they can actually arrest him.
Overall, it’s not an original idea, you’ve seen this type of story hundreds of times before. But I don’t ever remember seeing it with a woman in the lead. She does a great job, and it’s hard not to cheer on her brutality as she gets her revenge. I particularly enjoyed her visit to the house of the woman who was so cruel to her and her daughter, “Now I’m going to burn down your house with you in it.”
8 out of 10 – clean, simple, short. Delivers exactly what it promises, and leaves it just open-ended enough.
Bonus – I really do love Thirteen Going on Thirty, it's Big, just with Garner instead of Hanks.