Jennifer Garner as pre-vengeance mom Riley North
Were Grindhouse double features still a thing, the overtly violent Peppermint would have paired well with a nice blaxploitation or women-in-prison flick. So long as audiences continue to enjoy death-wish fulfillment, flicks like Peppermint will scurry out from the dark places where the murder of a little girl serves as the spark to ignite a narrative conflagration.
The hook for Peppermint is it is a gender-swapped Death Wish; now, it is Mom seeking to avenge the deaths of her family. Jennifer Garner is more than up for this task. As the guardian angel of Skid Row, she conjures up pleasant memories of her days trotting the globe as spy Sydney Bristow in “Alias.” Most of the rest of the time, she is executing drug dealers, which is not so much the sleek spycraft at which she excelled. Nonetheless, Garner makes vengeful mom Riley North as compelling as she can. A more enticing plot may have involved North training to become a maternal Equalizer, rather than a female Charles Bronson.
As directed by Pierre Morel, who obviously earned this gig via Taken, Chad St. John’s Peppermint script finds nothing new to say about a parent gunning down the bad guys responsible for hurting her loved ones, though he does complicate Riley’s story with the dirty cops and corrupt justice system of a drug-cartel thriller. With no grace or surprises, Peppermint checks all the boxes required for such a violent, pulpy affair. Savvy filmgoers know whether or not that is enough to entertain them.