“What’s in your wallet?”
Jennifer Garner poses that question a lot, but in the case of “Peppermint,” it’s easy to see what’s in hers: a membership card in the Screen Vengeance Club, reserved for characters who are determined to even the score with the fiends who did their families wrong.
Here, Garner plays a bank teller who loses her husband and daughter tragically, due to a family friend who’s mixed up with the wrong people. She goes AWOL for several years, and by the time she resurfaces, she’s ready to engage in battle on — and arguably beyond — the level of Sydney Bristow of TV’s “Alias.” Which is not difficult, since that’s the role that brought Garner to stardom.
As preposterous as much of “Peppermint” is, it’s good to see Garner literally back in action. She’s been playing a lot of domesticated roles in recent years, but “Alias” fans know what she can do when she’s free to go full-throttle … and she certainly throttles a lot of people here.
John Gallagher Jr., who was excellent in TV’s “The Newsroom,” plays a lawman on her trail. It’s a thankless part, since you know Garner will be kept free for vengeance by director Pierre Morel, who did much the same thing for Liam Neeson in the original “Taken” movie. For Garner, it’s her version of that mission: “I will find you, and I will kill you.”
“Daredevil” and its spinoff that was built for Garner, “Elektra,” also showcased her physical prowess – but it’s been long enough since she did such projects that “Peppermint” may come as a surprise to those who know her mainly for her ads in which she inquires about which credit card you use.
Another factor that has worked in Garner’s favor over the years is her natural charm, which also is evident in “Peppermint” until the story puts her on her lethal crusade. Then, she gets down to the grim business at hand with an unyielding seriousness that eventually makes you wish for traces of the side of Garner that’s best-known these days. Or even the Garner of “Alias,” which allowed a certain playfulness to peek through on occasion. (And sometimes with Bradley Cooper, who had one of his first major roles on that show.)
In the end, “Peppermint” doesn’t quite slay, but it does offer the pleasure of watching its star doing something she does so well after a long time away from it.