From “Taken” director Pierre Morel (surprise!) comes Peppermint, an action thriller starring rom-com favorite Jennifer Garner back in full-on “Alias” mode. Garner plays Riley North, a wife and mother who loses both her husband and only daughter to a drive-by shooting. She is also injured in the hail of gunfire, and after an extended recovery in the hospital, she awakes in time to see her assailants go free on a technicality. She herself then goes free in a fashion; disappearing and “going off grid” for five years.

She reappears on the anniversary of her family’s death to personally mete the justice that The System failed to deliver. According to some unearthed, sketchy YouTube videos, she apparently used those lost years to learn all the dark ways of dealing death, including hand-to-hand combat and weapons-training, virtually all of which happens off-screen. The good news is that Garner fully commits to the role in every way: she’s all bubbly, soccer-mom smiles before the tragedy, then crushed in its aftermath, and finally steely in her eventual revenge. And it’s that last mode that made her famous initially, and she returns to it with relish, complete with all the accompanying R-rated language and violence. Lots of it. Her action sequences are well-choreographed, bloody, and brutal.

All of which makes sense for an R-rated revenge flick. The bad news is she’s also in a movie that is as ridiculous as it is occasionally clever; incorporating social and news media into its plot, and scripting in some misleads to keep things interesting. But everything else is as unbelievable as it is in any one-man army flick. We’ve certainly seen this kind of thing before, and really the only addition to the formula is that it’s a woman doing all this butt-kicking and not a guy. They certainly didn’t bother to come up with a plot that makes much logical sense, as Garner’s character is all but superhuman considering the beatings she survives, all while taking on drug cartels, the FBI and the LAPD simultaneously. But a woman doing all the ludicrous stuff that Liam Neeson normally does in the Taken series is the only thing that makes this outing any different from any other flick of its ilk, and that’s not enough to make it a standout even in this overstuffed and repetitive genre. Garner’s long-awaited return-to-form deserved better than this over-obvious bit of franchise bait.

Don’t worry; she’ll be fine! Jennifer Gardner in “Peppermint.”

Peppermint
Director: Pierre Morel
Writer: Chad St. John
Rated R for strong violence and language throughout
Distributor: STX Entertainment
Release Date: September 7, 2018
Genre: Action Thriller
Runtime: 1 hr., 42 mins.