‘Peppermint’ Is the Shittiest Punisher Movie I’ve Ever Seen
Jennifer Garner’s latest proves revenge is a dish best served with violence, hold the racism
In 2012, Thomas Jane starred in Dirty Laundry—a 10-minute short film where he played Frank Castle, the Punisher, and brutalized criminals with a Jack Daniels bottle. It’s fun. This was a full eight years after Jane had played Castle in a pre-Marvel Cinematic Universe version of The Punisher.
The short film generated buzz and the creators said they wanted to do a sequel centered around a female version of the character. But by that point, Marvel had gotten back the rights to Castle and the idea failed to materialize.
Until now. Peppermint is a female version of the Punisher, written by Dirty Laundry scribe Chad St. John and directed by Luc Besson-wannabe Pierre Morel. It stars Jennifer Garner as Riley North, a woman who loses everything and takes to the streets to dispense Death Wish-style vengeance on the criminals who ruined her life.
It’s bad, a film that fails on every imaginable level. Peppermint is boring, racist and dumb. It’s as if Hollywood were trying to create a movie it thought Middle America would enjoy, but got squeamish at the idea of showing actual violence or following through on its plot threads.
This is a Red State fever dream, a movie that doesn’t know what it wants to be, and can’t even deliver on its basic premise—watching a woman pushed to the limit executing gangsters.
Garner’s North is a working mom with a young daughter and an auto-mechanic husband. They’re short of cash, hate the rich people who live across town and want their daughter to have nice things. They’re just like you.
North’s husband has a buddy who wants to rip off a drug dealer but the husband turns him down. It doesn’t matter though, for even considering the job, three gangsters find North’s family and gun them down outside of a carnival.
North survives, wakes up to learn her family is dead and identifies the shooters. But a corrupt justice system lets them walk and attempts to put North in a mental institution. She escapes and disappears for five years. When she returns she’s learned to kill and carves a path of destruction across Los Angeles, murdering everyone responsible for the death of her family.
Spoilers. She succeeds and a sympathetic cop lets her escape at the end, setting up a sequel that will never happen.
It’s a basic setup for a revenge flick, one that’s worked countless times in the past. But Peppermint is poorly acted, directed and written. For an R-rated action flick, Peppermint is remarkably bloodless. Garner brutally executes gang members, but the camera often cuts away before the killing blow and the violence is mostly implied.
Early on, the cops talk about several murders she committed that the audience never sees, teasing violent vengeance that was probably left on the cutting room floor to get the movie’s run time under two hours.
The simple plot is also full of glaringly weird holes and contrivances. North kills every gang member she encounters save for a criminal account in a pinata store. Why? Because the plot needs him to tell his boss about her to set up the next action scene.
There’s also a hinted romantic subplot between two detectives chasing North we only know about because another character comments on it. Why? So it feels like a betrayal when, spoilers, one of the detectives turns out to be dirty and kills the other.
Worst of all, the gangsters are all racist caricatures. It feels like a conscious design choice on the part of the filmmakers to appeal to wine moms hopped up on Fox News and scarred of MS13. The three shooters who murder North’s family have face tattoos, their leader carts around a Santa Muerte fetish and the accents are so thick they’re comedic.
I’m not sure who this movie is for. It’s not violent enough for the exploitation crowd and too racist and weird for mainstream audiences. Hell, I can’t even tell you why Peppermint is called Peppermint. That’s how little sense Peppermint makes.