Peppermint isn’t a very good movie, which is so plainly obvious from everything about it that it might as well be the tagline, but it’s fascinating for what it says about the state of the film industry. Directed by Pierre Morel, a sort of Eurotrash Neveldine/Taylor knockoff best known for Taken and District B13, and written by “Chad St. John,” who I assume is a porn star, Peppermint is a revenge film cut from the cloth of a long line of grimy grindhouse shoot ’em ups in which Caucasian vigilantes take out the largely brown trash.
In the past these would’ve been strictly skuzzball affairs, movies made largely by and for smelly, leather-jacketed obsessives — Death Wish being the most well-known, though it almost doesn’t count, since it had a higher budget than its peers, was based on a novel, and, in stark contrast to Peppermint, at least attempted to have some kind of social commentary (even if that commentary was largely limited to “even liberals can become fascists when ethnic thugs kill their family”).
These days, weirdly, instead of a gremlin-faced fringe character actor like Charles Bronson, our violence porn for sweaty weirdos is toplined by the same actors who sell us soap, in this case America’s sweetheart, Jennifer Garner. And they’ve surrounded her with prestige cable character actors like John Ortiz from Togetherness and John Gallagher Jr. from The Newsroom. Method Man even shows up at one point. The contrast makes one wonder: is this supposed to be for adults, like the ones who like John Ortiz and John Gallagher Jr., or for repressed post-adolescents who love revenge porn? Is post-adolescent sweatiness just mainstream now?
Okay, sure, half the draw of Peppermint was surely the chance to see a sweet soccer mom like Jennifer Garner pop skulls like grapes with Glocks and Mossburgs (yes, I know she was in Alias and The Kingdom so this isn’t entirely new). Garner plays Riley North (another porn star name), a spunky bank teller whose husband and young daughter get gunned down in front of her by uzi-wielding gangbangers with face tattoos before they can finish their peppermint ice cream. Sheesh, this dang MS-13 is out of control, it’s enough to make you want to build a wall. (Also, who the hell eats peppermint ice cream? That’s gross, even if it is Christmas)