Review: Peppermint stacks lots of guns and ammo yet shoots blanks

Vigilante pic starring Jennifer Garner as a wronged mom never gets down and dirty

PEPPERMINT (Pierre Morel). 95 minutes. Opens Friday (September 7). See listing. Rating: N

Movies that harm children to warrant a bloody revenge plot get me pretty worked up. Do we really need to go there just to find satisfaction when an antihero fillets bad men?

Peppermint goes a step further. At a time where Donald Trump is calling MS-13 gang members “rapists” and “animals” to stoke far and wide immigration fears, the movie’s opening act pits a wholesome, hardworking white family against a savage Latino cartel.

Jennifer Garner’s Riley North watches as three gang members murder her husband and young daughter. At an amusement park! On her birthday! While she’s holding an ice cream cone! Animals!

The culprits giddily laugh as Riley has a public meltdown after a bought justice system lets them off the hook for insufficient evidence. That’s when Riley disappears for five years.

An FBI agent runs down her absence with a quick bullet-point presentation, suggesting what Riley might have been doing in that time (bank robbery? Underground fights? Container heists?), all so that she can return as an avenging angel ready to wipe out the cartel’s U.S. operation in one day.

Peppermint, directed by Taken’s Pierre Morel and written by London Has Fallen’s Chad St. John, relies on shorthand throughout, counting on the audience to know these beats from Death Wish to Batman Begins, just so it can rush along to the body count.

The movie stacks plenty of guns and ammo but comes up short everywhere else. The action is a monotonous escalation that never dances and rarely gets down and dirty.

And Riley never gets to be more than a perfect mom turned righteous vigilante, easily pegged within 280 characters. Peppermint actually shows us the tweets that do just that, regularly checking in on social media to tell us how to feel about her.

All that’s missing is a congratulatory missive from the president.

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