Film Review: PEPPERMINT (USA 2018)

Peppermint Poster

Peppermint is a revenge story centering on a young mother who finds herself with nothing to lose, and is now going to take from her enemies the very life they stole from her.


Pierre Morel


Chad St. John

PEPPERMINT is the ice-cream flavour Riley North’s daughter picks at the fair.  The film could also be called Rocky Road the flavour Riley (Jennifer Garner) choses for hers or also for the awful route the revenger thriller takes.

When Riley North’s (Jennifer Garner) husband and daughter are killed in a drive-by shooting by members of a cartel and the killers walk free owing to corrupt officials on the cartel’s payroll, she takes matters into her own hands and seeks vigilante justice against those who destroyed her life.

The film begins with a slice of Riley’s family life.  Husband is overly loving, daughter annoyingly cute and smart and everyone is lovey-dubey.  After Riley’s family is killed, she takes down the killers one by one till she reaches Garcia, the chief villain.  Added to the story is the vigilante element (DEATH WISH).

The film’s lazy script does not bother with plot details or character development or even suspense build-up, all the laments necessary to make a good thriller.  Showing Riley with her family enjoying fun times together is a very laze way to get the audience to feel for her. Nothing is shown how Riley got to transition from loving mother and housewife to martial-arts expert and super fighter.  One short clip is shown of an MMA fight with the cops saying that Riley was in one of the fights.

The fight scenes are barely exciting – too much gunplay and fast cuts to examine in detail what actually happened.  Garcia’s henchmen are all buffed but too easily beaten by Riley in unbelievable punch-ups.

The only one interesting character is that of cop Carmichael (John Gallagher).  He aids Riley initially – in fact too much.  When it is revealed that he is actually Garcia’s undercover, his initial actions do not add up.  He could have done her away many times given so many opportunities.  

Jennifer Gardner now joins the ranks as an actress in action films.  Having carved her name in fame for romantic dramas, she looks entirely out of place kicking and fighting int he movie.  She only looks convincing at the start of the film as the loving wife and mother.   THE TOMB RAIDER or HUNGER GAME actresses would have fitted in better.   Putting in a female fntaed of a male in the revenge action genre at least makes a welcome change, given the film’s limitations and problems.

Cardboard characters, simplistic plot, silly plot twists, unexciting action sequences, uninspired acting, mediocre sets and music, PEPPERMINT leaves far to be desired.

Successful films of this genre that include Morel’s previous Liam Neeson revenger TAKEN are often described as guilty pleasures.  PEPPERMINT is a total displeasure.  The film at the press screening ended with a blank screen instead of closing credits. “No wonder the film is so bad,” remarked a fellow critic.  “It wasn’t even finished.”  But whether finished, edited or improved, it is doubtful that the film will impress.  



Full Review: THE BELKO EXPERIMENT (USA 2016) ****

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the_belko_experiment_poster.jpgIn a twisted social experiment, 80 Americans are locked in their high-rise corporate office in Bogotá, Colombia and ordered by an unknown voice coming from the company’s intercom system to participate in a deadly game of kill or be killed.
Director: Greg McLean
Writer: James Gunn
Stars: John Gallagher Jr., Tony Goldwyn, Adria Arjona

Review by Gilbert Seah
Aussie director Greg McLean (Australians always have their special edgy sense of humour) and scriptwriter James Gunn (remember his super-gross SLITHER?) join forces to deliver the perfect horror thriller on office culture. Originally premiered in the Midnight Madness section at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, the film still proves a fascinating watch the second time around.

Office politics turns into a real-life survival of the fittest when workers at Belko Company are forced into a sick game of kill or be killed by unknown sinister forces (revealed at the end of the film) that lock down their building, in this gruesomely funny horror thriller. It at first seems to be an ordinary morning on the job for a group of Americans working for a not-for-profit company in a modern office building in Colombia. After noticing that their Colombian colleagues have not arrived for work, office worker Mike (John Gallagher, Jr.) spots some unfamiliar security guards entering a large hangar nearby. Moments later, an icy voice comes over the building’s PA system and calmly explains that the employees must kill 2 other employers of their choice within 30 minutes — if not, they will be killed themselves. While the boss (Tony Goldwyn) tries to calm the troops, Mike belatedly realizes that something truly sinister is going on — and when metal doors come sliding down on all the building’s exits and windows, it becomes clear that friends and colleagues are now suddenly enemies in a bloody and brutal battle to the death.

Even before the action begins, McLean delivers lots of inside office jokes like the isolation of working in a cubicle, sexual harassment and the introduction of new employees. The film contains a good cross-section of workers like the maintenance men, the security, the bitchy lady manager et al. The film is a mix between disaster, sci-fi, horror and comedy which means that the filmmakers have plenty to play around with. In the kill to survive scenario, there is the good guy with all the right motives, the bad boss (handsome Goldwyn doing the villain as he did in GHOST), the unstable psycho, the asshole, the plump good meaning lady and so on.

The music, by Tyler Bates (GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL.2), is an assembly of musical numbers from classical Tchaikovsky to a Latino version of “I Will Survive” effectively used at appropriate intervals. The sounds effects are superb especially the metal closing of the windows and doors.

Besides being a well-made horror thriller, McLean also squeezes in office satire and a fews good metaphors like the segment of the dos shitting and covering up its shit outside the Belko compound. There are a few predictable parts – like the one involving the office pervert/asshole sexually harassing the pretty employee. His comeuppance, with his life at her mercy comes as no surprise but provides the biggest cheer of the movie.

Best of all, the ending is unexpected, also providing a good twist to the story. THE BELKO EXPERIMENT proves to be very violent and satisfactory fun, if one can stomach the graphic violence.


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Happy Birthday: John Gallagher Jr.

johngallagherjr.jpgHappy Birthday actor John Gallagher Jr.

Born: June 17, 1984 in Wilmington, Delaware, USA

He played guitar for a band named “Annie’s Autograph”.

Parents are musicians. Has played in several bands and performs occasionally as a singer/songwriter.

John originated the role of Jeff in David Lindsay Abaire’s hit play “Kimberly Akimbo”

Played in a band called Old Springs Pike which plays relatively frequent gigs at various locations primarily in New York City.

Won a Tony Award in 2007 for his portrayal of Moritz in “Spring Awakening”.
Younger brother of actress Jaime Gallagher.