Peppermint showcases Jennifer Garner as ruthless lead

Courtesy of STXFilms Jennifer Garner stars as Riley North in Peppermint.
Courtesy of STXFilms
Jennifer Garner stars as Riley North in Peppermint.

Natalie Schroeder | Staff Writer


Peppermint started off with a bang in the first five minutes with Riley North, this story’s heroine, bringing down the first of many men. Peppermint opened last weekend and although did not impress most critics, 82 percent of the people that saw it in theaters enjoyed it, according to Rotten Tomatoes. The movie follows Riley North (Jennifer Garner) after she witnesses a brutal attack that killed her husband and daughter. The traumatic experience and the fact that the people responsible were shielded from punishment leads her to exact revenge on the cartel that took everything from her.

Throughout the movie, Riley North grows on the people that live in the community and receives their support. Eventually she is given the title of vigilante. At the beginning of the movie, North faces decisions such as being an eye-witness, turning down hush money and speaking about the attack in court. These decisions give her no justice and she has to watch as the men responsible for her family’s death are free to walk out of the courtroom. Later, she makes more decisions: going off the grid, training, becoming an unstoppable force and going after the cartel and those who support it. Even though this was a predictable movie in some cases, the powerful female role was important to show vulnerability, pain and strength in one person.

It’s easy for viewers to root for her because she isn’t completely perfect in all her actions and she shows when she was in pain. She faced the cartel herself and was ready for the seemingly inevitable outcome. The five-year gap between the brutal attack on her family and her returning to her hometown for revenge allowed the audience to believe her transformation more so than if she transformed in a matter of weeks or months. As North resurfaced in the US on the five-year anniversary of her family’s murder, she started her path of vengeance with the men who pulled the triggers of the guns that killed her family. She slowly works her way up to the top of the cartel and it is predictably harder for her to succeed against a ruthless man with many others that protect him.

Riley North is faced with a difficult decision: kill head of the cartel and die too or allow law enforcement to capture both of them. Throughout the movie North shows her carefulness in making these men answer for their crimes but she would rather die and be with her family than be taken by the police with Diego Garcia: the local drug kingpin. Within this action-thriller movie there are parts where we see North vulnerable. The most heartbreaking scene occurs at her family’s grave when she begs Detective Moises Beltran to let her die and be with her daughter and husband. This lets the audience, once again, see her as a mother that has lost everything and not the ruthless killer demanding her own kind of justice.

With a strong female lead, this movie shows its audience that people have layers. She is incapable of letting children die at the expense of her cause, but she also will not stop until the cartel is brought down. Like most movies nowadays, there are flaws, but the film alone is entertaining, heartbreaking and thrilling.

Because the movie was labeled as a vigilante film, the pace was faster and the audience followed Riley North as she tracked and killed men in the cartel. However, the pace of the film fluctuates as her strength and vulnerability does. Not only does she lose her stability when she sees her daughter following the attack but also when she sees other children suffer at the hands of the cartel. Either it fuels her anger more or makes her vulnerable again. As a mother she never lets a child or an innocent party suffer for her cause, so when a young girl named Maria is held at gunpoint by Garcia to coax North out of hiding she emerges into the scene with the cartel.

Like any other action movie, this film ends with ambiguity in the sense that the audience doesn’t know where she is or what she’s doing. This let the audience be satisfied with the cartel being brought down and Riley North staying out of prison.