PEPPERMINT – Review by Susan Granger

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When a struggling Southern California mother, Riley North (Jennifer Garner), sees her husband (Jeff Hephner) and 10 year-old daughter (Cailey Fleming) slaughtered in a drive-by killing at a local Christmas Carnival, she conscientiously identifies the Mexican cartel gunmen in a police line-up. But corruption corrodes the criminal justice system and the obviously guilty suspects are released.

That’s when Riley North steals thousands of dollars from the bank where she works and drops off the grid, becoming an urban vigilante. She’s determined to wreak vengeance against drug lord Diego Garcia (Juan Pablo Raba), the dishonest district attorney, crooked cop and complicit judge.

At first, detectives Stan Carmichael (John Gallagher Jr.) and Moses Beltran (John Ortiz) are reluctant to blame Riley for a subsequent series of murders. But then FBI agent Lisa Inman (Annie Illonzeh) finds indisputable evidence of Riley’s continuing vendetta against the injustice that her family suffered.

Sketchily scripted by Chad St. John (“London Has Fallen”) and superficially directed by Pierre Morel (“Taken”), the predictable plot becomes increasingly unbelievable, even ludicrous, and reminiscent of every “Death Wish”/”John Wick” genre thriller you’ve ever seen.

Although hard-bodied Jennifer Garner duly earned her action stunt-stripes on TV’s spy actioner “Alias,” followed by “Daredevil” and “Elektra,” the script skims over her five-year transition from bereaved housewife to ruthless fighter/expert shooter. As a result, there’s zero character development.

In addition, during the Hollywood film industry’s current move toward diversity, it seems racially insensitive and unnecessarily offensive to cast Latinos as almost every one of the bad guys. And the drug dealers’ front is a store that makes pinatas. (In 2018, Hispanics represented 16% of the adult U.S. population but accounted for 23% of prison inmates.)

FYI: The title comes from the peppermint ice cream cone that Riley’s young daughter was consuming on her birthday – as she was gunned down.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Peppermint” is a forgettable 4, a mediocrity flavored with trite revenge clichés.

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