By Troy Ribeiro
Film: “Peppermint”; Director: Pierre Morel; Cast: Jennifer Garner, John Gallagher Jr., John Ortiz, Juan Pablo Raba, Annie Ilonzeh, Cliff Smith, Jeff Hephner and Cailey Fleming; Rating: **
A lurid and gristly revenge thriller designed from cliched tropes of action-packed vigilante films, director Pierre Morel’s bittersweet “Peppermint” is a big let-down as it has neither a flavour nor essence of its own, except that it is a woman-centric vigilante film.
While you try to find meaning and depth in the narrative, you realise there is no reason for the film to be called what it is. As silly as it may sound, the title is an odd, passing reference to an ice-cream flavour.
Narrated in a non-linear manner, it is the story of Riley North (Jennifer Garner), a mild-mannered, working wife and mother whose life has been shattered after her husband and daughter are brazenly gunned down by associates of a Latino drug lord, in Los Angeles.
After being denied justice by the corrupt legal system, Riley disappears for five years only to return as a deadly vigilante, the media’s darling, a one-woman force crusading against those who wronged her; the cartel, the corrupt judge, lawyer and the police force.
From a structural standpoint, it is an oft-told story filled with trite, cardboard-thin characters. The film is shallow and simplistic, propelling on a predictable plot, filled with plot-holes that hardly allows you to invest in any aspect of the narrative.
The fault lies in the screenplay. A telling example of this is when the three gang members responsible for killing Riley’s family are killed. Visually it leaves a jaw-dropping impact. But the issue here is the abrupt plot progression robbed the audience of knowing how Riley achieved doing this.
Similarly, there are many such abrupt plot moves that leave the audience bereft of any sort of emotional punch towards the protagonists or the antagonists.
Physically, Garner is apt as Riley. She is strong and agile but her character is too opaque to be interesting. She is allowed to vacillate between grieve and anger, and that’s the only extent of her character depth. We are never really driven into her psyche, making her seem like a mechanical killing machine.
The others in the cast are perfunctorily there, only to help Riley achieve her goal.
The camera work is awash with poorly captured frames. The colour palette too is exceedingly washed out and bland, with no good visuals to immerse in.
The action sequences, consisting of fistfights and shoot-outs, though astutely staged are badly captured with not enough careful thought on blocking, thereby making the snappy edits ruthlessly cut out the locations and emotions. The overall effect of the actions seem like a series of mundane video game stages to be cleared.
Also, the background score too does not elevate the viewing experience.
Overall, “Peppermint” is another run-of-the-mill film not worth its ticket price.