Thursday, September 6, 2018

Pierre Morel's PEPPERMINT: revenge, blood, explosions, nonsense -- and a modicum of fun

What do you do when you're a witness to the murder of your husband and daughter, and then the justice system completely lets you down?  If you're Riley North (Jennifer Garner, still trying to atone for that Daredevil movie), you disappear for a few months, get skilled in martial arts and firearms, and then return to destroy literally every bad guy involved in the event -- from the murderers' sleazy defense attorney to the bought-off judge, crooked cops and the drug dealer and his (far too many) henchmen responsible for it all.

Director Pierre Morel (shown at left), who some years back gave us the better film, Taken, still has some talent and a few tricks up his sleeve. One of these is to not have to dish up every single killing of every single bad guy. No, some of these we just hear about via police chatter or TV breaking news. This speeds things up a bit -- though not quite fast enough:
The movie is still ten minutes too long for its own good. The massacre of the drug dealer's many henchmen -- really, wouldn't one dozen, rather than 24, have been enough of a body count? -- seems to go on for-fucking-ever.

On the plus side is a nice, if nasty, surprise toward the conclusion, and the film's final shot proves witty, concise perfection that drew both a deserved laugh and applause from the preview audience.

Ms Garner (shown above, in her "homeless bag lady" disguise) acquits herself as well as an actress could manage, given the ridiculousness of what she is asked to do (and what we are asked to buy into). She is pretty and game, and she makes the movie more fun that it might have been.

As written by Chad St. John, the film is full of the standard "vengeance" tropes that the genre provides -- the courtroom scene, above, in which the murderers laugh at Riley's anger and disbelief when they are summarily acquitted is a typical example; her revenge on the sleazy judge, below) is another -- PEPPERMINT does not lack for genre clichés.

But the pacing overall is fairly strong, so these clichés go by relatively quickly. As the two policemen working most closely on the case, John Gallagher Jr., and John Ortiz (the latter is shown below, center) provide decent support,

while the leading drug-dealing villain, Juan Pablo Raba (at center, below) does just about everything a villian should -- except twirl his mustache (it's simply not long enough).

With explosions and a very high body count, Peppermint -- does that odd title refer to the kind of ice cream chosen by our heroine's daughter (below, with dad and mom), just prior to her demise? That's the only reason for it that I could come up with  -- should please action/revenge fans enough to make it profitable, if not anything close to either a sleeper or blockbuster.

From STX Entertainment and running 102 minutes, the movie opens tomorrow -- Friday, September 7 -- pretty much nationwide, I think.

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