Back from vacation, recovered from said vacation (mostly) and already a movie to review. Fair warning, I probably won’t see The Nun. I haven’t been too thrilled by the Conjuring franchise in terms of horror itself so instead this week I am watching Peppermint. I need to make a callback to a film a mere six months ago, Death Wish, on what the purpose of this movie is as I get into the review here. Back in that review I discussed the purpose certain genre’s give us and that the most common reason to see an action movie is Wish Fulfillment. We, as the audience, want to be the bad ass who protects our family, our friends, our town, to be the beautiful one, the one with the chiseled abs, or deity like physique. Go to any high school party (ok when I was a kid anyway), college dorm, or bar fifteen minutes before last call and a half dozen beers already put away and you’ll find that group of friends having this conversation. This also applies to most gaming groups at one point or another.
“So like what would you do if <X Scenario happened>”
“Oh man I’d…..”
And the conversation usually goes to how they would kick butt, not be afraid, etc. Hell I’ve had this conversation, I usually like to preface it with “I’d like to think I would…” as I have no bloody clue what would happen in the moment. Few of us do (thats a good thing). That’s why we have our fiction in TV and movies where the characters with the power of the script behind them get to do the thing we wish we would do in that moment. This is very important to be aware of and I need to address it here, as I derided Death Wish for it, but I intend to take a different tack here.
Why is Peppermint different than Death Wish?
The movie follows the same basic premise. Bad things happen to our protagonists family. They train to become a bad ass. They kill bad guys as a result. This is the Punisher and a hundred other vigilante movies concepts. This is every revenge movie we’ve watched from I Spit on Your Grave to Even Lambs Have Teeth. Chad St John, the writer who gave us the Punisher short Dirty Laundry and the droll London has Fallen utilizes all of those techniques, but he’s learned since his last film. The Director knows this genre well as Pierre Morel also directed District B 13 (fantastic film) and Taken. So again why is it different than Death Wish if its the same thing?
Well for one the movie doesn’t really attempt to glorify the actions of our protag, Riley North, played as effectively as you can by Jennifer (Alias, Love Simon, Elektra) Garner. She is a wanted criminal from the word go here and there’s no ambiguity from the cops or FBI in that they want to bring her in, know who she is, and is trying to do so. The movie touches on social media as a backdrop, where in DW it was very much the side plot in how Social was responding to him and a ham fisted attempt to create debate. Here the movie threads that needle a hundred times better simply by leaving it in the background. Anyone who has been watching Social Media recently with any sense of awareness would know that yes, there is a population that would be cheering her on. She’s killing bad guys right? The movie doesn’t mince words though and lets the main drivers objectively say she’s still a murderer.
Secondly. it’s quite simply made better. I’ve discussed how movies sometimes start “In Media Res” – with the plot already going. Catch up or don’t. This does that. Quite often in film review or discussions we may jokingly say if they got rid of the boring parts, they would have a good movie. This actually does that. It’s trimmed to the bare essentials. There’s very little fat on the movie at all. It alternates between action beats and investigation well enough that it keeps a brisk but easy to follow pace.
That said, the editing while strong in this area also hurts in others. There’s a few camera tricks that we’ve seen from Morel before that just don’t work here nearly as well. The action is clean, but also very procedural and not as kinetic as say Atomic Blonde or John Wick. I am both praising and damning it for the same thing, as it was edited tight, but maybe too tight. There is no emotional weight or connection in the film rather we are delivered a series of small action beats with thin connective tissue that is there, is doing it’s job but is too thin to support any weight of emotion, development, or arc.
Peppermint is solid popcorn fare. It’s entertaining, and the audience I was with reacted to the the action with engagement which enhanced my particular experience. There were the winces, the oohs, and aahs. This won’t win any awards to be sure, but Morel, St. John, and Garner deliver well enough I was pleased with what I saw.
It is well made enough to differentiate itself from Death Wish and just ends up being a standard revenge action film that doesn’t go for a message or drive some deeper meaning down your throat. It simply says I am here to deliver a Revenge movie and let you watch bad guys who did bad things die.
I can’t fault a movie for not trying to be more than it is. Point in fact, I often do fault movies for trying to be more. Peppermint knows what it is and stays in it’s lane.
Should I see it?
Matinee, sure. It’s also viable when you get it on Netflix, Amazon, or Hulu, who ever gets it. I mean a Theatre is nice for this one, but not a necessity.
Will you see it again?
If someone wants to take this girl on a date? Yes. – what I consider this date movie material. I am weird alright.
Yeah…ok. So buying it?
Yeah pretty much.
The other actors in the movie though?
They exist. Look no one was winning any awards here. They all at least put in an effort and avoid phoning it in. There’s charm.
Also – I need to call this out. The line from the trailer where the title supposedly comes from is never in the movie.
To be fair, I also would consider It or Happy Death Day good date movies.
Right, so next week?
The Predator is on deck, but I’ll have to call out some recent news regarding Shane Black when I do.