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Peppermint (2018)

Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 12/11/2018

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 12/13/2018

Since the inception of the #MeToo movement, we have learned many things about gender relations in the entertainment industry. We've learned that powerful male executives don't like being told "No". However, if look around at some of the product which comes out of Hollywood, it also appears that executives don't like saying "No" either. Every year, we get a selection of movies and television shows which leave us scratching our heads, wondering who agreed to finance the project. Peppermint isn't necessarily mind-boggling, but a close examination of the film leads to some questions about its existence.

Peppermint introduces us to Riley (Jennifer Garner) and Chris North (Jeff Hephner), a couple who are trying to scrape by and provide a good life for their daughter, Carly (Cailey Fleming). Chris is offered a chance to make a lot of money by robbing drug dealer, but he turns down the gig, deciding that it would be too dangerous. However, Diego Garcia (Juan Pablo Raba) wants everyone to know that he's untouchable, so he sends some of his gang to kill Chris and Carly is caught in the hail of bullets. Five years later, Riley re-emerges in the city, toned, well-trained, armed, and ready to seek vengeance. As she pursues Garcia and his gang of thugs, police detectives Stan Carmichael (John Gallagher Jr.) and Moises Beltran (John Ortiz) attempt to stop her.

The novel Death Wish was published in 1972, and a film based on the book was released two years later. The Punisher first appeared in Marvel Comics in 1974. What do these two things have in common? Both concern men who lost someone close to them through the action of organized crime. They then decided to take the law into own hands and use violent force against these criminals or anyone else who got in their way. (What in the world was going on in the 70s?) These kinds of stories have influenced many, many movies over teh years. The Death Wish film spawned four sequels and a 2018 remake. In other words, this story is very familiar.

So, why didn't the produces say "No" when someone asked them if they should make a female version of Death Wish. Not only is the main story hackneyed by this point, we've seen women featured in this sort of role in the past. From 1981's Ms. 45 to last year's M.F.A., females have taken on the mantle of vigilante several times in the past. In fact, all that Peppermint does is take a very basic Death Wish-esque script and insert a woman. Is this feminist? I don't know, but it never feels original. There are certainly moments when the characters marvel at the fact that it's a woman who is hunting the criminals, but they could have easily been doing this about the same character if Riley was a man -- mild-mannered banker turns bad-ass killer.

Once you set aside the fact that Peppermint is offering us nothing truly original, the movie becomes difficult to review. There's nothing about it which screams "bad movie". Director Pierre Morel previously helmed films like Taken and District B13, so he knows how to handle action sequences, and he does well with the pacing. The story is easy to follow (although it's full of plot-holes) and there's actually an effective twist in the third act. The acting is fine, even if most of the characters are cliches. But, the whole retread nature truly drags the film down and one watches the movie with the hope that something slightly new will happen.

Of course, the oddest part of Peppermint is Jennifer Garner herself. Yes, she first gained prominence kicking mucho butt on Alias, and she continued this in Daredevil and Elektra, but it's been a while since she's taken on an action role. Maybe it's just because I recently saw a profile of Garner showing her tending to the chickens in her backyard, but she felt out of place in this role. Maybe the goal was to have a very feminine and tender woman pushed to these extremes, but I had trouble buying it. Does Peppermint work as an action movie? Sure, but for most viewers they will feel that they've seen it all before.

Peppermint offers an explanation for the title which comes and goes very quickly on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Universal Studio Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 34 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good, most notably reds, and the image is never overly dark ro bright. The picture shows off a nice amount of depth and the level of detail allows us to see textures on objects. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 5.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The action sequences work quite well, and the rear speakers are often filled with the sounds of bullets whizzing by. The stereo effects show good separation and we are always aware of sounds coming from off-screen. The subwoofer rocks with the explosion and gunfire.

The Peppermint Blu-ray Disc is nearly barren of special features. We get an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Pierre Morel. "Justice" (2 minutes) is like a trailer with comments from Garner and Morel, where Garner refers to the film as "an original story".

Review Copyright 2018 by Mike Long