An adrenaline rush from a powerful female character
In an age where men dominate the action film landscape, Jennifer Garner goes into a genre that Charlize Theron, Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Lopez have tried before to varying success. It’s gritty, it’s dark as hell and I cringed at limbs being snapped – but it was entertaining, action-packed and just what we needed. In the era of women being marginalized, seeing one fight back using her body, her wits and military-grade weapons that can easily be purchased at your local shop – Riley North gets revenge for all of us.
Please be advised everything written below this beautiful GIF can and should be considered rather spoiler-ish. Stop reading now if you don’t want to know anything more. Otherwise scroll down.
Peppermint has a simple premise, the family is struggling to make ends meat. Chris North (Jeff Hephner) talks to Mikey over one quick score. He swears all Chris has to do is drive and then their families are set for life. Chris agrees because like any parent, he wants the best for his kid and sometimes that clouds judgment. How many times have parents done this on a much smaller scale? It seems outlandish, but the reality is people are going to campaign rallies to make $15 an hour so they can pay the bills. When you are in a jam, you do everything – legal or not – to get out of it.
Riley North (Jennifer Garner) and Carly North (Cailey Fleming) have a run-in with a very wealthy white snobby bitch and her kid – all over something akin to Girl Scout Cookies and where to sell them. Seriously, selling cookies is no joke and is probably a full-on contact sport in another country. After a brief interaction, Riley is off to work with promises to be home for her daughters birthday party. Needless to say, working at a bank and asking for extra hours, Riley is stuck and has to close. When she returns home, Chris and Carly sit dejected in the living room – no one showed up. Said snobby bitch threw a holiday soiree and invited everyone, thus destroying Carly’s celebration. So, in true form of parents trying to make their kids happy – they go to the carnival to celebrate. It’s then that Chris goes outside, calls Mikey and says he won’t risk his family for the job. Problem is, Mikey’s been caught and the message is only heard by detectives after he and his daughter are gunned down at the carnival in front of Riley.
Riley wakes up and identifies the three men in the drive-by shooting that took her family. Their lawyer comes by and offers her money, manhandles her pills that she was recently prescribed to handle the trauma and ends up making her look mad in court. The judge doesn’t protect her and the district attorney stares at his papers instead of fighting to defend his client. It’s a stark reminder of what happens in today’s society for people of color, women in abusive relationships and how the justice system is skewed against us. It is also a terrifying reminder of how the judgeship should be sacred. In a time when the Supreme Court if being used as a weapon against a diverse society for a specific subset of people to reign supreme – Peppermint showcases it all in simplistic clarity.
The film continues from there with heart-pounding action, spoken background with few visuals of Riley in the last five years, lots of fight sequences and a lot of killing. Seriously creative and cringe-worthy killing. If I had to pick one specific moment out, it’s when Riley kicks a man’s knee and it appears to snap sideways. As a former catcher and someone who has had knee surgery, I will be feeling sympathy pains for quite some time.
As a random aside, I will say I loved the representation of Skid Row here. How crime ceases because she is around – she protects them. It might not seem important, but throughout all of this violence – protecting people is what Riley does. It makes her human.
Look, Riley is not a nice person in this film. She is not meant to be. She is a victim just like those she kills. She is also a protector. Like Batman, Lorraine Broughton, and even Wonder Woman. All of them are flawed but still try to do what is right. Their path to justice might not be a straight line, it might look like Lombard Street during a blinding rainstorm, but they find their way. Indirectly, Riley North rids the area of the vile cartel. She ends up lying down, bruised, beaten and begging to die at her family’s tombstone. The detective finds her there, saves her life and she ends up in the hospital awaiting trial. That is until that same detective slips her the keys to her cuffs. The last thing we see are the open cuffs swinging off the hospital bed.
Like the graffiti on the wall in Skid Row, she has become something bigger than herself. She’s a vigilante for the people just like Batman and all the other male characters out there. Revenge is what starts it, but protecting the innocent is what it morphs into.
Like I said at the beginning of this post, the film is not overly thought provoking. I didn’t leave the theater and wonder beyond the snippets of reflection in regards to the justice system. I did leave the theater having been entertained for the entire 1 hr 42 min running time. I did eat all the Mint M&M’s I bought totally destroying my 2 mile run earlier in the day. The girls night out was a resounding success and all of us had a good time. It was nice to have that considering the last few films I’ve seen were let downs – I’m looking at you Happytime Murders! Just like Liam Neesen in all of his films, this is just a fun ride to enjoy without thinking too much. Considering everything going on in our society today, we need to escape for a bit. It doesn’t hurt that it is a female-led film in a male-dominated genre. That was a big bonus for me, but even men in our theater enjoyed it greatly.
Especially the part where Garner says (and forgive me if I have the quote wrong) “I’m going to shoot you in the face and figure it out from there.” Everyone laughed in the auditorium. Spoiler alert, she does.