★ ★ ☆
“Peppermint” begins with America’s sweetheart Jennifer Garner offering a guy, up close and personal. “You don’t remember me do you?” she asks before ventilating his body.
Five years previous she was a mom with a young daughter (Cailey Fleming) and husband (Jeff Hephner). Just days before Christmas on her daughter‘s birthday hubby makes a decision that puts him in the way of some very bad people. “Make an example out of him,” the bad guy (Juan Pablo Raba) says, “a loud one.“ A hail of bullets puts an end to her family life, and when police hit a dead end in the case—“We know everything but can’t prove anything.“—her switch is flipped from adoring soccer mom to avenging angel of death. On the fifth anniversary of the murder of her husband and daughter she returns to unleash holy hell against the cartel drug dealer who ordered the hit. “You don’t deserve justice,” she says to one of her victims, “but I do.”
“Peppermint” is not a sweet as the title might suggest. Garner got her start as an action hero on television’s “Alias” before straying into kinder and gentler roles. In “Peppermint” she finds her way back. She bloody knuckles her way through those who done her wrong with efficiency but the action scenes don’t feel quite frenetic enough.
Director Pierre Morel doesn’t infuse the film with the same forward momentum as other recent one-person crime waves are like “John Wick” or “Atomic Blonde.” Still, as mom revenge movies go, there is a fair amount of action and even a few laughs. And make no mistake, Garner, even while she is blowing away the baddies is in full-on mom mode. For instance, after she steals a car to chase down some bad guys the first thing she does is do up the seat belt. Safety first!
“Peppermint” isn’t quite a refrigerator movie. That’s where you think about the movie later, as you stand in front of the fridge looking for a snack, and your mind wanders back to the movie. As you reach for the leftovers it dawns on you that the film didn’t make any sense. That’s a refrigerator movie. “Peppermint” is different. You know it doesn’t make sense even as you watch it. I was willing to forgive some of its leaps of logic right up until the end. John Ortiz caps off the action with one of the silliest speeches in action movie history. And that bar is pretty high.
2 ½ STARS