Riley North’s (Jennifer Garner) retribution in Peppermint doesn’t begin with her husband and daughter being murdered by drug dealers. It begins with some other, more wealthy mom lecturing her for selling girl scout cookies in the wrong parking lot. Then Riley has to skip her own kid’s birthday party to work a closing shift at the bank (don’t banks close at 5 pm?). Only later that evening do the scary Latino dudes (one of them actually has a face tattoo that says “LOCO”) do a drive-by on Riley’s struggling-but-loving-and-happy family, because they mistakenly think hubby was planning to rob their boss. Riley picks them out of a lineup but they get off at the trial because the judge inexplicably thinks the anti-anxiety meds that Riley takes as a result of this trauma make her an unreliable witness — and despite her testimony that the killers’ defense attorney tried to bribe and threaten her. It’s all a patently absurd and monumentally bland setup for a handful of scenes of Garner shooting bad guys in the head. Peppermint is almost entirely made up of such filler. It’s the type of junk food action movie in which a cop tells his partner “The F.B.I. wants to talk to us” and his partner replies, “The feds?”
Peppermint is so aggressively generic that even its anti-feminism and frequent overt racism can’t do much more than vaguely irritate because the rest is so damn boring.
Multiple subplots about Riley training herself for vengeance as an MMA fighter in Brazil, or becoming an angel of justice for the homeless on Skid Row, are elided with a line or two of dialogue so that we can have another scene where she shoots a couple of brown guys in a convenience store or blows up the mean judge’s house. There’s even a moment where Riley confronts her suburban tormenter from the opening scenes. Yes, this woman has supposedly spent five years preparing to take on the drug cartel that massacred her family, but first she needs to stop to assault and humiliate the neighbor who was mean to her that one time. There is essentially no movie here save for the allegedly exciting parts you might watch between commercial breaks someday. The action is serviceable; director Pierre Morel can at least stage a clean fight, followed by a guy getting his face blown off, without a bunch of cuts. But after the twentieth anonymous, tattooed henchman, the whole thing stagnates, and doesn’t even bother to follow through on a last-minute idea of Riley’s newfound fame as a social-media-enabled defender of the disenfranchised. Destined for a long life in heavy rotation on basic cable, Peppermint is so aggressively generic that even its anti-feminism and frequent overt racism can’t do much more than vaguely irritate because the rest is so damn boring.