Under the Radar

'Peppermint': Mommy Is an Operator

Jennifer Garner stars in "Peppermint." (STX Films)

More than a decade after "Alias" ended its TV run, Jennifer Garner returns to action with "Peppermint" (out now on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital). Working with "Taken" director Pierre Morel, Garner plays Riley North, a mom and bank employee whose life goes off the rails when drug dealers kill her husband and daughter. 

She identifies the killers, but a corrupt Los Angeles legal system lets the villains walk and a judge tries to send her to a mental hospital. She breaks out, robs her bank and disappears for five years.

Riley returns with some serious tactical and weapons skills and systematically starts killing everyone she believes hurt her family. The FBI and LAPD set out to shut her down but they're powerless against her parental rage and operator methods.

Morel has a gift for staging brutal, retaliatory violence (see "Taken" or his work with Sean Penn on "The Gunman") and Jennifer Garner fully embraced the carnage when making this movie. Anyone who only knows her as the nice lady from those Capital One commercials or in family-friendly moves like "Miracles From Heaven" or "The Odd Life of Timothy Green" would be completely freaked out by the ruthlessness on display here.

There's not much emotional reflection or subtlety on display here. There are some syrupy family flashbacks but everyone involved is way more interested in the violence and revenge than any complex character revelations. In this regard, "Peppermint" isn't much different than dozens of beloved action pictures made over the last 50 years.

Jennifer Garner kills the bad guys, makes no apologies, experiences zero internal conflict and may be unbalanced after her family tragedy. Look elsewhere if you want a meditation on loss and family, but "Peppermint" delivers on the revenge.

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