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  Peppermint Garnering Enemies
Year: 2018
Director: Pierre Morel
Stars: Jennifer Garner, John Gallagher Jr, John Ortiz, Juan Pablo Raba, Annie Ilonzeh, Jeff Hephner, Caily Fleming, Eddie Shin, Method Man, Tyson Ritter, Ian Casselberry, Richard Cabral, Johnny Ortiz, Michael Reventar, Kyla-Drew, Gustavo Quiroz, Pell James
Genre: Drama, Action, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Riley North (Jennifer Garner) is a woman on a mission, and this evening has been in a fight with a man in a car, managing to fend off his blade that tears through her thigh and smashing his head against the steering wheel until she can get her gun underneath his chin and pull the trigger, executing him. Retreating to her weapons-filled van, she sees to her wound by stapling it, and has time to reflect on the process that has brought her to this place, for this time five years ago she was a happily married mother to a little girl. However, one big mistake by her husband - that he only thought about, but did not carry out - lands them all in sheer hell...

The trend for ageing male stars to appear in action movies and in effect revitalise their careers began with the Pierre Morel-directed, Luc Besson instigated, Taken in 2008, or at least that was the way the common knowledge had it, conveniently dismissing a vast swathe of Charles Bronson films, to pick a prominent name out of the air. But while Liam Neeson and his ilk could claim to have found a new audience of fans thanks to these old geezer crunch-fests, or they could as long as they didn't put their foot in their mouth in interviews, for the ladies it was a different matter, as the list of action stars who were female and over forty was significantly shorter in comparison.

Sure, Milla Jovovich's style meant she was flinging herself around in fantastical plots past the year life supposedly begins, but aside from Charlize Theron in Atomic Blonde and Michelle Yeoh getting to exercise her martial arts moves on occasional episodes of Star Trek Discovery, ten years into the ageing action hero cliché (rediscovered), the women were sadly neglected when it came to kicking ass. Step forward, then, Jennifer Garner, again in a Morel effort, here showing off her lithe ability to beat up the bad guys was retained from her days on series television in the J.J. Abrams adventure show Alias, which she had starred in for years and had to get into fights in practically every episode.

The critics were not kind, indeed a large part of the potential audience was not kind either, and it looked like a Taken-sized hit would elude Garner and Morel, but then it turned into a sleeper success and made back a decent-sized profit. It wasn't one of the biggest movies of 2018 or anything, and outside of the United States it didn't even secure a theatrical release, but it did very respectable business, suggesting a reboot of the old Bronson Death Wish plot with a distaff twist was something audiences could get behind. More than one observer noted this was basically the vigilante narrative as used by The Punisher in his various incarnations (screenwriter Chad St. John's first credit was for a Punisher fan short), but since that formula was one that was a solid excuse for the mayhem, well, why not?

Racism, that's why not, as with a certain American President demonising Latino members of society, some saw Peppermint as pandering to those who really liked it when he made a speech about shooting immigrants from behind his proposed border wall. It was accurate to say that a Mexican cartel was broadly who Riley was exacting her revenge against, but not that every villain in the story was Latino, as they were in league with corrupt cops and a corrupt "justice" system that sees her humiliatingly tasered in the courtroom when the judge cancels the case on account that he claims she is unreliable as a witness. Indeed, she even went out of her way to beat up the WASP mom who caused her family to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when she stole all the little girl's birthday party guests, necessitating a trip to a carnival (where they have peppermint ice cream before the bullets fly - er, OK, there's your title). Yet whichever way you sliced it, aside from the casting of the lead, this would have been straight to video with a male star. Serviceable, nothing more. Music by Simon Franglen.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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