Sep 6, 2018

Late summer actioner with a new kick-ass heroine.


Grade: C

Director: Pierre Morel (Taken, District 813)

Screenplay: Chad St. John (London Has Fallen)

Cast: Jennifer Garner (Love Simon), John Gallagher (10 Cloverfield Lane)

Rating: R

Runtime: 1 hr 42 min

By: John DeSando

“Sometimes justice is better served by those who have experienced the pain.” Mark W. Boyer  

From Taxi Driver to Kick Ass, I’ve seen a variety of vengeance and vigilante thrillers, so Jennifer Garner’s Riley in Peppermint is another formulaic take on a well-worn genre. Her husband and young daughter were killed by drug dealers 5 years ago. She’s out for justice by way of eliminating the thugs who work for the cartel that sponsored the murders and the murderers themselves.

Absolutely no way exists that you could not know how this formula will play out if you know going in that Riley will turn into a killing machine as she spends the 5 years after the murders toning up her body and combat skills. After the obligatory opening family scenes with the tragedy on foot, her vengefulness rivals Chuck Bronson’s and Denzel’s, with a dash of Keanu Reeves’s.

The only surprise twists are when the mole in the LAPD is exposed and when her fate is determined in the last scene. Otherwise the screen is filled with Latino bad boys and a snarky neighbor who deserves a little roughing up.

Peppermint briefly touches on the driving passion of parents to protect their family and the need to connect with them after they’re gone.  Additionally, the film taps into our rage that drug dealers can’t easily be stopped by the law, so we vigilantes must take it into our hands as Riley does.

Finally, Peppermint lays out the bad cop motif as we gradually realize a cop is in cahoots with the drug dealers. Most important, however, is seeing Jennifer Garner in a role that suits her fit body and high intelligence (she is a Denison University graduate, after all). The ending leaves open the possibility of a sequel and the realization that she can carry a picture as well as an Uzi.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at