What could have been an interesting gender twist on tried-and-true revenge fantasies devolves into a tone-deaf, uninteresting rip-off of much more compelling films. It should have been a delight to see Garner step out of her many interchangeable suburban mom roles into a part that showcases the action skills she honed as the fierce, fit star of Alias. So it's particularly disappointing that Peppermint, with its gut-wrenching premise, wastes her talent with its clunky script, problematic depictions, and ridiculous plot. One example? Unlike revenge movies starring men (John Wick, Taken), there's little to explain how Riley acquired the necessary expertise in assassination, robbery, and covert global transportation required to become a one-woman killing machine.
Working from a script by Chad St. John, director Pierre Morel portrays the movie's villains as cartoonishly evil (the gunmen even laugh in the courtroom) -- and nearly universally people of color. Sure, there's also John Ortiz as a homicide cop, but he's under suspicion for most of the movie as being the drug dealer's inside man on the force. The optics of a white vigilante being an angel of righteous vengeance while every brown person in the story is a bloodthirsty drug dealer, henchman, or criminal isn't believable or laudable. The criminal underworld, especially in Los Angeles, isn't solely the domain of Mexican or Korean Americans. But even if you set all of the sociopolitical undertones aside, the story is much less entertaining than a revenge thriller should be to work. Garner, and moviegoers, deserve better.