‘Peppermint’ fails to stand out

“Peppermint” comes to theaters courtesy of STX Entertainment, who is looking to rebound from a rough summer. Their three releases (“Adrift,” “Mile 22,” “The Happy Time Murders”), either lost money or are projected to. To try to start autumn off right (they won’t), they turned to Jennifer Garner, playing the role of Riley North.

Everything seems to be going swimmingly for Riley. She has an honest husband, a nice job at a bank and a daughter she loves with all her heart. Unfortunately, one of her husband’s co-workers gets involved in the drug trade and Riley’s whole family gets caught in the crossfire. On her daughter’s birthday, the family goes out to a local carnival. The daughter and husband fall victim to a hit-and-run, as Riley sees them die in front of her. After the law fails to bring those responsible to justice, Riley goes into hiding for five years to train. Once she comes back, she ready to bring justice on her own terms.

When I first learned there was a film starring Garner called “Peppermint,” a revenge thriller was not what I had in mind. Having never wasted my time with “Electra,” I’ve never seen Garner in an action film. I’m far more used to seeing her as a young-at-heart goofball in “13 Going on 30” or the loving mother in, like, everything. She does start as the loving mom and unsurprisingly created a familial bond I was able to buy into, even in the short time given.

It was clear to me she had done some weight training for this role and the gunplay looked natural, though I can’t say I’m an expert on those terms. A moment in a liquor store where Riley threatens an alcoholic father stood out to me as one were Garner felt especially threatening. Throughout, my belief in the character was never in doubt. And that is saying something considering the image of Jennifer Garner that has been constructed in my mind due to her prior roles.

But, yes, as I alluded to earlier, I felt everything else about this movie was average or worse. The score hit all the notes I expected. The sad moments were matched with slow-moving piano tunes and the action parts where underscored by a rock-ish sound (if you know “Pentagon” from the “Black Ops” soundtrack, they all sounded like that). It worked, but nothing felt unique to this film.

Throughout the film, Riley is being hounded by a few detectives who, I felt, had little defined personality. The main villain is an extremely stereotypical drug lord named Diego Garcia.

Plot wise, on the surface it seems quite standard and it is mostly. Though they made one unusual decision that hurt the film, in my eyes. All the people directly responsible for the husband and daughter’s death or the rigged court case are dead within the first 30 or so minutes of the film. A few are even killed off screen. I felt as though those should have been the people the film leads up to Riley killing, not the first to go. Instead we are taken on this chase for Garcia, who is of course an established bad person, but I was unsure of Riley’s personal stake in this fight.

Suddenly thoughts began to spin around my head, questioning the morality of our “hero.” Even as we see tweets supporting Riley, much like in “Death Wish,” I was left questioning how right it is for some common citizen to decide they know what’s right and wrong. Going back to the moment with the alcoholic father in the liquor store, Riley sticks a gun in his mouth. Yes, he was probably not a great dad, but this and a few other moments seemed to go a bit farther than necessary.

It seems to be established that North is a bit off her rocker, as one might expect after what she witnessed. There is a moment towards the end that shows Riley collapsed in front of her family’s grave, asking a detective to let her meet her family. I thought this would have been an interesting ending. Perhaps telling the tail of a mom who lost it and, while never doing anything truly terrible (at least in the universe of this film), knew she couldn’t live like this forever and she snaps completely. This would have helped me rationalize those moments where I felt Riley went above and beyond the call of revenge. Of course, the film keeps going and gave me a less satisfactory ending that completely absolves Riley of any wrongdoing.

That’s probably more thought than needs to go into what I ended up feeling is a barley average revenge film, but hey, that’s my job. If you’re into the genre, it could be one to check out once on demand, but certainly not worth a full ticket.