Peppermint (2018): A Review
I grew up watching violent action movies from the Dirty Harry series to everything Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger had made, including Commando (1985) where Schwarzenegger played Colonel John Matrix whose daughter Jenny was kidnapped.
Today, I watched Peppermint (2018), headlined by Jennifer Garner who has made a name for herself playing action heroes in Elektra, Daredevil, and the Alias TV series. The movie was widely panned but many viewers have come out to say it was great!
The plot is similar to most vigilante movies: after the entire family is gunned down, the mild-mannered survivor becomes a hardcore fighter and kills all the bad guys. Sounds just like The Punisher, except, this time, there is no cool t-shirt.
5 years after her family is gunned down by the mob and she is failed by the legal system, Garner’s character Riley North returns to seek her revenge.
Hiding out in Skid Row, she wins the hearts and minds of those she rescues in the community and is given the title of The Angel of Skid Row. This really helps her in her end game but she didn’t save those in her community for that. She did it because it is the right thing to do, like what she did to the alcoholic father in the convenience store, certainly one of the best scenes in the movie.
North is witty with a fantastic deadpan humor, which suits her character really well. She is resilient, hardy, and knows what she is doing.
My other favorite scene is when she visits Peg (Pell James) who bullied North and her daughter Carly (The Walking Dead’s Judith Grimes herself, Cailey Fleming) in an earlier scene, indirectly causing her family to be killed.
North punches her in the face, as Carly said she should have, ties her up and threatens her till she pees in her pants, then promises to blow her house up with her in it before telling her she is joking!
Oh, the comeuppance for everyone who has ever been bullied by an adult version of a Mean Girl is an incredible feeling.
During my first viewing, I wondered why North let herself get beaten up in the years she went missing. But this time, watching it for the second time and seeing the man who ordered the murder of her family, Diego Garcia (Juan Pablo Raba), beat her up in the final scene, I understood.
Part of learning how to fight is to learn how to take punches, to know how it feels when you are hit, in the face (I involuntarily teared up and got angry), in the stomach (will you fold over and lose your advantage), or stabbed (hurts less when the knife goes in but excruciating when it is pulled out).
When North takes the punches in that scene, she is buying time. They are nothing to her. That’s why the callback to her time in the ring is important. In the next scene in the warehouse when she attacks Garcia, she is suddenly back in full form. And she finishes it by shooting him dead.
I thoroughly enjoyed both viewings and am glad there is no adult content. The violence is on par with most of the blockbuster action movies out there, the acting is solid, the plot is solid, and the dialogue is great. Like every other Stallone and Schwarzenegger action movie, there is deadpan humor.
The only difference is that it is a woman who is the one-man killing machine.
Is that why it was panned? Possibly. I found it more watchable than the John Wick trilogy, perhaps due to Garner’s electrifyingly versatile and evocative performance. You feel for North. You feel all of her pain.
Yet how was it that reviews came in so negative? My theory is that viewers are unaccustomed to seeing a woman in the role of a one-man army, previously occupied by muscled men.
Perhaps the title didn’t do it justice either. Riley North would have been a better title, like Jason Bourne. And truly, Garner’s portrayal of North did not let women down. While she was vulnerable, she was never weak. She took responsibility. She did everything Rambo did. How was it Peppermint wasn’t better received? Does it matter anyway?
Now with social media shaping people’s opinions more than official reviews, it no longer matters, especially with DVD and streaming driving sales after a theatrical release. Viewers, especially women, are speaking up and we are all saying Peppermint is awesome.
Riley North is brave and tough as nails but like every other hero out there, she would lay her life on the line to save an innocent in danger. A vigilante hero.
“You hit like a girl,” North says to Garcia.