Peppermint (2018)

Peppermint (2018) Cover

I’m not sure if “NRA Fetish Film” counts as a genre, but between Taken and Peppermint director Pierre Morel is certainly making a case for it. Peppermint is an absolute blast for viewers looking for a violent ride through vigilante justice with a gender-swapped equivalent to The Punisher that will set people on edge who are uncomfortable with the idea of white people justifiably and remorselessly gunning down cartoonishly evil minorities.

Firstly, it’s important to say that Peppermint is well-paced and filled with intense action. Most viewers will be primarily concerned with how entertaining the film is, and taken at face value it feels like a live-action comic book. The action sequences are choreographed so as to be fun and the major plot points are framed in clear and unambiguous terms. The technical construction is on point with solid use of color, composition, and direction captures the story in a way that conveys exactly what is intended.

Secondly, it is also very much worth noting that the acting is solid and entertaining throughout. Jennifer Garner rocks as Riley North as a dramatic lead as well as an intense action star. Moreover, the child acting is excellent with a fantastic portrayal of Carley North by Cailey Fleming. The biggest criticism I can aim at the acting is the tragic stereotyping of latin gang membership, however, I don’t think it would be fair to level that at the actors.

Unfortunately, all of these positive elements are severely undermined by 2 major issues: A story that delivers narrative through heavy-handed exposition that is dismissive of important details and a framing device that glorifies racially slanted vigilantism. I think that the things a movie says with its narrative are incredibly important and Peppermint fails thoroughly on this level. The film delivers a childish expectation of justice through a movie that is targeted at adults, reinforcing negative and unproductive stereotypes while advocating that might makes right without reservation.

While I’d like to dive into exactly how this movie does this I don’t think that it’s possible without getting into heavy spoilers. Given this, I’d like to talk about this movie again in an editorial. Suffice it to say that all of the critical information is given through expositional dialog, the major plot points are thin and unbelievable, and all of the characterizations are cartoonishly one dimensional. Even modern children’s cartoons avoid being so ridiculously heavy-handed with their subject matter. The demonization of Latin-American gang members is particularly tone-deaf toward any of the issues that create this climate and of the demographics driven to this kind of lifestyle.

Given the complex issues that go into what causes gangs to form, how they’re structured, and the impact of social programs and regulation on their existence, portraying a white woman resolving her issues with an ethnically slanted gang by mowing them down with what is described as “exclusively military grade hardware” is problematic, at best. At worst, this propagates stereotypes that are unproductive as solvable with deeply inhumane violent power fantasies.

And those are just the ethical issues with the plot. From a pure construction standpoint, it is highly disappointing to have so little care given for basic cause and effect. Basic things are treated with heavy-handed and almost slapstick justification. A lot of viewers will be able to completely turn their brain off and overlook this for the action and pacing, but even the most basic review of the events of the film is outright silly.

Overall, if you can completely shut your brain off, or generally do not give the substance of a movie any thought, then you’re likely to find a fun summer action flick. Additionally, those who need a female power fantasy will find something here as there is definitely a gap in this genre. There is most definitely an empowering aspect here that is worth note. However, I’d suggest that anyone who wants more from their movies and demands more from filmmakers give Peppermint a pass.

Final Verdict:A problematic thrill ride that delivers intense action with a side of uncomfortable racial depictions.