Review / ‘Peppermint’ (MA) ***

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Jennifer Garner, who plays wife and mother Riley North, in “Peppermint”.

EMERGING from seeing Pierre Morel’s no-holds-barred actioner about revenge regardless of moral or ethical justification, I vox-popped a pair of sprightly ladies who clearly fitted into the certain age cohort about which no gentleman inquires.

“What did you think of it?”

“We enjoyed it.”

That was an agreeable surprise. I, too, liked it. Chad St John’s third screenplay augurs promisingly as it unfolds a large-scale demonstration of the proverb about revenge being a dish best served (some versions say enjoyed) cold.

In the me-too era, it’s agreeable to have a violent story that invites its audience to cheer for a female principal character while wondering about the ethics of her actions. Jennifer Garner plays wife and mother Riley North who, while enjoying a family visit to a Los Angeles amusement park to celebrate her daughter’s tenth birthday just before Christmas five years ago, survives a murderous gangland attack.

The cops ask her to ID the shooters who go on trial before a judge who’s clearly been got at by a defence attorney with access to big money. Fast-forward to five years later, during which nobody knows where Riley is or what she’s been doing. The two LAPD detectives originally assigned to the case (John Gallagher Jr and John Ortiz) know there’s criminality lurking in the department but not the culprit’s name. They and we in the audience must wait while they beaver away trying fruitlessly to solve the case. Riley is not under any such restraints.

About two-thirds of “Peppermint” involves Riley’s campaign to get justice. It’s tough stuff, taking no prisoners as it moves among Skid Row’s paupers and the mansions of Malibu where criminal big-shot (Juan Pablo Raba) commands the loyalty of a phalanx of goons all willing to die at his behest.

The film delivers Riley’s campaign for justice vigorously and with loads of style. Their boss pays for the bullets that the goons spread copiously around wherever their targets happen to be. Buying her own ammo, Riley’s mostly a one-shot-per-goon lady. In his house she braces the judge who acquitted the original trio of shooters, nails his hands to his desk and ties him to a chair with yellow cord. I recognised the cord’s real function. It’s a real blast!

“Peppermint” is effective summer holiday escapist cinema, making few demands of its audience, which it reimburses in satisfactions calculated at compound rates.

At Dendy, Capitol 6 and Hoyts

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Dougal Macdonald
“CityNews” film reviewer

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