The in­sane re­venge movie “Pep­per­mint “starts to make a lot more sense when you re­alise that it was di­rected by the man who brought us “Taken” (Pierre Morel) and writ­ten by one at least par­tially re­spon­si­ble for “Lon­don Has Fallen” (Chad St. John). It’s a movie in which the cen­tral char­ac­ter, Ri­ley North (Jen­nifer Garner), is called a “fe­male vig­i­lante” by a lo­cal news an­chor, and a “soc­cer mom” by Los An­ge­les po­lice. She uses a maxi pad as a makeshift ban­dage to sop up the blood from a gush­ing knife wound and may have a higher body count than John Wick by the end of the ilm.

Why, you might ask, all the blood­shed, may­hem and stereo­types? Ri­ley is just a reg­u­lar mid­dle class mom jug­gling a job and parental re­spon­si­bil­i­ties in a sen­si­ble midi skirt and con­ser­va­tive sweater be­fore she watches her hus­band and young daugh­ter get gunned down by agents of pow­er­ful Latin drug boss at a pub­lic fair. In slow mo­tion. With ice cream cones in hand. It’s al­most dis­ap­point­ing that there’s no shot of the melt­ing pep­per­mint ice cream next to her fallen fam­ily, but there are plenty of silly ones to come (like, say, a bloody hand­print on a tomb­stone that the po­lice use as an in­di­ca­tion that she’s been there).

Ri­ley of course sur­vives, barely, and awakes from a coma, gets a grief pixie hair­cut and im­me­di­ately iden­ti­ies the three men with the face tat­toos who killed her hus­band and daugh­ter. But a deeply cor­rupt sys­tem lets them walk, and Ri­ley goes rogue, dis­ap­pear­ing for a few years to learn how to be a killer

and re­turn on the ive-year an­niver­sary of the in­ci­dent to ex­e­cute all who wronged her.

The movie doesn’t show much, if any­thing, of her train­ing, which is sum­marised in ex­po­si­tion by an FBI agent (An­nie Ilonzeh), but just picks up with her killing spree and her life op­er­at­ing out of a skid row home base. It’s a bit of whiplash, her tran­si­tion from Laura Ash­ley to Lara Croft, but you get used to the new Ri­ley fairly quickly (and hon­estly there wasn’t a lot of the old one to latch on to ei­ther).

And good­ness, she is not kid­ding around with these mur­ders, which are not only bloody and grue­some but psy­chot­i­cally the­atri­cal. Her Ter­mi­na­tor-like fo­cus on her re­venge path still al­lows her to vi­o­lently scold a shoddy par­ent on a pub­lic bus.

The funny thing about “Pep­per­mint” is that even in spite of its ridicu­lous­ness and clichés and lash­backs illed with stock sounds of gig­gling chil­dren, the movie does start to lull you into sub­mis­sion when the re­venge stops re­ally start pick­ing up. And there are a few twists and turns (some eye-rolling, some not) as you wait for her in­evitable show­down with Diego Gar­cia (Juan Pablo Raba).

It’s a movie that is re­ally best seen with a big, rowdy crowd who will be there to laugh at all the bravado. “Pep­per­mint” is not some model of equal­ity, it’s just vi­o­lent escapism that hap­pens to have a wo­man in the lead role. And, frankly, as long as this genre con­tin­ues to en­ter­tain au­di­ences, Garner is a com­pelling a lead as any, and more so than quite a few of the men who get so many parts like this. But maybe, just maybe, next time con­sider a wo­man or two be­hind the cam­era (and script) as well.

Di­rec­tor Pierre Morel with Jen­nifer Garner.

Cast mem­bers Juan Pablo Raba (left), Jen­nifer Garner and John Or­tiz

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