Nearly every progressive critique aimed at this year’s “Death Wish” reboot applies to “Peppermint.”
Only much, much worse.
The film’s body count is higher, exponentially so. The pro-vigilante themes are more overt. The hapless cops who couldn’t catch the thugs in “Death Wish” are practically Popeye Doyle compared to the “Peppermint” flat foots. The bad guys are mostly people of color. The justice system? It’s of little use to the victims’ families.
She even wears a hoodie, for Pete’s sake.
The biggest difference? Eli Roth’s “Death Wish” delivered catharsis with a dash of grindhouse glory.
“Peppermint?” It stinks.
Jennifer Garner, an underrated actress with killer action movie chops, deserves little of the blame. She plays Paul Kers-- or rather Riley, a happily married momma who warns her child against cussing and fighting.
“You can’t go around punching people who are jerks … then you’re as bad as they are,” she tells her child after a dustup with a Stepford mom.
You know what’s coming next, of course.
Later that day she watches her husband and daughter get gunned down by a drug cartel. It’s a harrowing sequence, and we’re spared little of the visual tsunami.
Riley IDs the culprits but a laughably crooked court sequence sets them free. Flash forward five years, and Riley is now a buff, fearless killing machine. That drug cartel better lookout, cuz this Momma’s out for revenge.
The dumb meter hits red early and never lets up. The snickers arrive shortly thereafter, mostly due to dialogue that wouldn’t pass muster on an “A-Team” episode.
- “This s*** ain’t easy when it’s a kid”
- “We know everything but can’t prove anything.”
- “Everywhere she goes people get dead.”
Stop laughing. That’s just a small sample.
Want more? How did an ordinary mom stay off the grid for five years? How did she turn from someone who eschews violence into Ms. Punisher? The best we’re given is a video clip of her in an UFC style ring.
These aren’t plot holes. They’re black holes where competent storytelling gets sucked into nothingness. When you have a story this brain dead there’s only one path to chart -- go grindhouse.
What’s to lose?
FAST FACT: Jennifer Garner boxed every day to prepare for her grueling work in “Peppermint.” She also did weighs, cardio and dance get in fighting shape.
Instead, the film strikes a serious tone and won’t let go. Director Pierre Morel of “Taken” fame throws in some pretentious style tics and slow motion moments which double down on that brow furrowing tactic.
There’s nary a tense moment to be found or a new wrinkle to the vigilante template. Riley uses her smart phone in a wry way in the final moments. That’s about it.
Garner looks the part, no doubt. Add your “right to bear arms” gag here for her lean and mean physique. She’s given little to do beyond giving us gun show tickets. Occasionally Riley looks at a photograph of her family and tears up. Want more character development?
The villains, mostly nameless drug cartels (mostly Hispanic with a sprinkling of Korean thugs) are hopelessly bland. For the Social Justice Warrior crowd that’s problematic, even if a few white villains enter the frame, too.
Morel, whose “Taken” is a master class in modern action fare, can’t deliver a single scene worthy of his biggest hit. He telegraphs much of the action, watching the suspense drain away.
You know a movie hasn’t a clue when it leaves room for a petty score to be settled with a nasty mom featured in the movie’s opening moments.
Bruce Willis’ “Death Wish” remake also incorporated social media noise into the story. That film, unfairly maligned for all the wrong reasons, offered a modicum of balance while cheering on the vigilante hero.
“Peppermint” pushes that balance aside. We learn she’s single-handedly responsible for reducing crime in a tent city-like expanse.
She even forces a sozzled dad to ditch the booze for her kid’s sake … by shoving a gun in his mouth. Awwww.
— Fallon Tonight (@FallonTonight) September 6, 2018
Need more pro-vigilante rhetoric?
“You’ll spend more time in prison than me,” a villain taunts her at one point.
“Social media loves her,” a cop cautions.
“Peppermint” saves an absurd plot twist for the third act. By then, you’ll be wondering why the social media mob spared this vigilante movie while skewering Willis’ superior model.
HiT or Miss: “Peppermint” is flat-out awful, a waste of a game actress and an unfairly maligned genre.