By John Mulderig
NEW YORK (CNS) — Remember the proverbial admonition not to take candy from strangers? Well, that warning applies in spades to director Pierre Morel as he tries to hand out “Peppermint” (STX), a gory, over-the-top revenge fantasy that sets Jennifer Garner on the rampage.
Garner plays Riley North, a mild-mannered Los Angeles housewife whose mechanic husband, Chris (Jeff Hephner), unbeknownst to her, flirts with — but then backs out of — a scheme to rob local drug kingpin Diego Garcia (Juan Pablo Raba). Alas, hubby’s change of mind comes too late.
Forgiveness not being his strong suit — perhaps he’s still irritable over the fact that his parents named him after an atoll in the Indian Ocean? — Garcia orders his minions to snuff Chris in spectacular fashion. In doing so, they also slay Chris and Riley’s 10-year-old daughter, Carly (Cailey Fleming), and wound Riley herself.
Though Riley succeeds in identifying the assassins during a series of lineups, the fix is in at their trial and they walk free. Whereupon Riley goes underground and transforms herself into the gun-toting, martial arts-skilled killing machine of the title. (Little Carly was chowing down on some peppermint ice cream purchased at a Christmas fair when the bullets flew.)
Screenwriter Chad St. John tries to paper over Riley’s wrongdoing by making her the champion of the denizens of L.A.’s skid row — on whose behalf she improbably rids the area of crime. But the primary objects of her attention remain the gangsters and corrupt officials who robbed her of justice, and she tortures and terminates them with aplomb.
She drowns one in his swimming pool, burns another’s house down with him inside it and, after nailing his hands to his desk, wraps the judge who let the murders go in detonating cord and … anyway, you get the idea. The lady is a scamp.
Riley’s slaughter spree eventually draws the attention of Detectives Moises Beltran (John Ortiz) and Stan Carmichael (John Gallagher Jr.), two of the LAPD officers involved in her original case. And, since she started her life on the run by robbing $50,000 from the bank where she once worked, the FBI — represented, most prominently, by Agent Lisa Inman (Annie Ilonzeh) — would like to have a word with Riley as well.
Though its very trashiness often makes it unintentionally funny, this is, overall, a sour confection that only a sucker would pay to see.
The film contains a benign view of vigilantism, excessive bloody violence, drug use, a few profanities, at least one milder oath as well as pervasive rough and much crude and crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.