Peppermint movie review: Jennifer Garner film eschews nuance and narrative for cliches, offensive stereotypes
Peppermint eschews nuance, plot and narrative for cliches, tropes and offensive stereotypes
castJennifer Garner, John Ortiz, John Gallagher Jr., Juan Pablo Raba, And Tyson Ritter
Peppermint is a dim-witted film which unfortunately assumes that placing a female protagonist in a movie is quite enough to make a feminist cinematic statement – nuance, plot, narrative, clichéd and trope-y storytelling, gun-worshipping, ugly violence, offensive stereotypes are all immaterial.
Oddly, the film is directed by Pierre Morell, who earlier made the very entertaining District 13 and the original Taken. So it comes as a surprise that Peppermint has neither the unique stylistic action of the former nor the no-nonsense violence of the latter. This is of course the female riff on Taken – Jennifer Garner, in this case, plays Riley North who uses her particular set of skills to track down bad guys who did bad things to her family. As she picks up guns and bombs and ropes to hang the baddies on Ferris wheels, we’re taken through a theme park ride of vigilante clichés, emotional manipulation and over-the-top music that is employed to ‘enhance’ the drama.
The first problem with Peppermint is that it is plain idiotic – the lapses in logic range from weird to unintentionally hilarious as Riley’s journey takes her closer to the final boss in the video game of a plot that it ultimately is. This is also a story that seems to have been made by a group of entitled white men terrified of Latinos. The portrayal of ‘cartels’ and how they’re scary seems slapped together by a bunch of kids who’ve recently binged on Fox News. It all feels artificial – the performances of the bad guys hamming their way into every scene, the way they are shot, the way Riley reacts to their threats has a layer of amateurishness seen in the Sharknado films, except everyone is being deadly serious here. The resulting violence, therefore, seems unearned, slapped onto the screen for cheap entertainment when the motivation of the protagonist is not to entertain people watching her.
The portrayal of a fractured justice system is an area where the film could actually have scored some points – given all the Kavanaugh drama that’s happening in America, but the execution reminds one of a Kanti Shah film where the lascivious villains wrong the doyen of goodness that is the protagonist – even Khoon Bhari Maang had a more nuanced and less shrill approach to a vigilante thriller than this film. Look, we’re all for over the top violence and pulp, but the film has to establish the rules for said violence to exist – you cannot pretend to be highbrow when the content you’re offering is dregs from the very bottom of the barrel. Riley taking pleasure in torturing villains before ultimately killing them has a nasty, out of place odour, and is even more problematic because these scenes expect you to cheer at them.
Then there’s the issue of performance – Garner once again channels her Elektra which was bad enough to begin with so the reminder only works as a deterrent. She was wonderful in Love Simon earlier this year, primarily because her role was so well written despite being just a cameo. We’ve had enough Taken movies for one lifetime, and if you’re really in the mood for a revenge thriller check out Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy instead and watch your brain melt.
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