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Film / Peppermint

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The system failed. She won't.

The 2018 film Peppermint, directed by Peter Morel (who also directed the first Taken movie) is the story of a woman named Riley North seeking revenge five years after the brutal murder of her family, starring Jennifer Garner as the widowed revenge-seeker.

Her quest for vengeance pits her against not only a branch of The Cartel but a system that denied her justice and is seeking to capture her.

Trope Examples:

  • Absence of Evidence: The police and FBI are clued in to North's whereabouts by looking at crime maps, and finding an area in a run-down section of town that is suspiciously free of crime.
  • Action Mom: Not initially, but much of the five years between Riley's family being gunned down and the present is her learning various martial skills, which she uses in her quest for vengeance and justice.
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  • Adult Fear: One come true: your daughter getting murdered.
  • Amoral Attorney: The attorney defending the gunmen that killed her family has no qualms working with drug dealers, to the point of using Cartel money to try to buy North's silence before the gunmen go to trial.
  • Anti-Hero: Somewhere between Pragmatic and Unscrupulous Hero. She resorts to murder, but given everything that happened to her and the corruption that she faces down, and also that she has saved many lives in the poor side of town she resides, she remains sympathetic.
  • Asshole Victim: Pretty much every victim that Riley kills, but particularly the judge and the three people that killed her husband and daughter. Diego Garcia also ends up as this at the end.
  • An Asskicking Christmas: It's set a few days before Christmas.
  • Best Served Cold: Riley disappears for five years before returning for payback.
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  • Big Bad: Diego Garcia is the son of a Cartel chief, responsible for much of the LA drug trade. He directly ordered the hit on North's husband, and drives the villainous manhunt against North.
  • Break the Haughty: Peg goes from lording over Riley with her upper class lifestyle at the beginning, to finding that her husband has left her for someone else in the present, and wetting herself from Riley's threats.
  • Brick Joke: A somewhat tragic example. In the beginning of the film, Carly asks Riley why she didn't punch Peg for taunting them. When Riley arrives at Peg's in the present, she actually does punch her.
  • Broken Bird: Riley starts out with a reasonably decent life as a bank teller, doting wife and mother. She loses it all when her husband and daughter are murdered, the killers get off scot-free while she gets ordered to a mental institution, leading her to bail and go completely off the grid, train herself, and turn to a life of vigilantism.
  • Byronic Hero: Riley loses her family and then turns into a vigilante to get back at all of those that had wronged her and her family.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': The Cartel members who assassinated Riley's family get off scot free since the judge is on the Cartel's payroll. Worse, the judge orders her into a mental institution due to her using anti-psychotic medication and trying to attack them in court. Riley taking down the Cartel and exposing the corruption in the police department, the very things that led her down her present path? Nope, she committed murder, so she must be arrested. Luckily, she is freed by Beltran at the film's end.
  • The Cowl: She's a vigilante who also emerges from the shadows to stop violent thugs in the poor part of town where she lives, in a cowl no less. She's regarded by many on social media as a superhero.
  • Create Your Own Hero: The cartel responsible for murdering her husband and daughter, and the court that got them off the hook, are responsible for turning Riley into their own worst nightmare.
  • Crusading Widower: And how. She won't stop until she takes down the cartel that murdered her family.
  • Dirty Cop: Several times there are warnings by characters of cops in the LA Police Department who are on the take of Diego Garcia, but one isn't actually seen until towards the end of the film, when the audience finds out that Detective Stan Carmichael is working for Garcia.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: What kicks off the plot. Riley’s husband was just asked to participate in a planned robbery of García (and had just left a message turning down the job). So García ordered his death and that of his family for merely considering robbing García.
  • The Dog Bites Back: After the Cartel kills her family, walks off, and their judge sends her to a mental institution (which she escapes), Riley returns after readying herself to strike back.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Brutal drug lord he may be, but Diego has a daughter who he clearly loves. Seeing her when she's about to kill him stays Riley's hand, giving him the chance to get away.
  • Folk Hero: To many of the citizens and everyone in the shantytown where she lives, she's considered a hero for her actions, especially considering the reduction in crime in said area.
  • Freddie Mercopy: García, to the point of resembling Bennett from Commando.
  • Friend to All Children: Riley is especially protective towards children in light of what happened to her daughter.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Definitely a nightmare to the cartel. See Broken Bird for more.
  • Gangland Drive-By: Riley's family is gunned down by thugs working for García, who ordered the hit targeting her husband to be public as an example of what happens when you try to cross him.
  • He Knows Too Much: Carmichael murders Inman when the latter gets too close to the truth about his involvement with the Cartel.
  • Hero Stole My Bike: After Riley murders multiple crooks in a store, she walks up to the befuddled kid behind the counter and, after telling him at gunpoint to forget she was here, asks him for his car keys.
    Riley: (giving him a big wad of cash) Consider it a rental.
  • He's Back: Riley returns five years following her disappearance after the hearing against her family's killers, ready to pay them in kind.
  • How We Got Here: The film begins with Riley confronting and killing a thug, before a flashback five years to the fateful day of the murders, the trial where the judge ruled against her instead of the killers, and her subsequent escape. The first thing we see upon returning to the present from all this? The bodies of all three killers hanging from a ferris wheel, at the very park they murdered her husband and daughter.
  • It Never Gets Any Easier: When investigating the initial murder, Detective Carmichael finds it difficult to do his job when the victim is a child.
  • Kangaroo Court: The case in the beginning is rigged against Riley. The judge is one of her first victims.
  • Kick Them While They Are Down: The lawyer of the murderers not only gets them off the hook, but the judge presiding also has Riley sent to a mental institution on a psychiatric hold due to her meds, plus attacking them after his ruling.
  • Mama Bear:
    • Her daughter's death in the attack drives her to seek revenge, having visions of her little girl at various points. Riley's protective streak is used against her towards the end of the film to lure her out of hiding, when Garcia threatens to kill a homeless girl if Riley doesn't come forward.
    • During Riley's encounter with Diego García, she was thrown off guard when his daughter made an appearance. This opened a window of opportunity for him to stab Riley several times before she could get away.
    • Whenever an Abusive Parent is involved, she'll make damn sure they clean up their act for their child's sake.
  • Mean Boss: Riley's boss forces her to work late on her daughter Carly's birthday.
  • Miscarriage of Justice: In a sense. Riley isn't the accused, but the hearing ends in a double whammy decision where in addition to the killers' release, and the judge sending her to an institution based on her meds plus attacking the defendants after his ruling.
  • Never My Fault: The police who say she must answer for their crimes. Even though, and after it's been proven that the corruption in their department helped instigate the events in the film.
  • Nothing Left to Do but Die: Having finally completed her vengeance after killing Diego and having the Cartel taken down, a heavily wounded Riley stops at the cemetery where her loved ones are buried, and is prepared to die there. Beltran finds and takes her to the hospital.
  • Off the Grid: Riley goes off the grid for five years in the aftermath of the hearing that saw her family's killers let off the hook, during which time she undergoes training around the world in order to avenge her fallen family.
  • Off with His Head!: Just before the attack on North's family, Garcia is shown taking a kukri to lop off the head of a would-be thief. The actual decapitation isn't depicted, just a big splash of blood on a nearby statue after showing the start of Garcia's swing.
  • One-Woman Army: Riley goes to town, figuratively and literally, on the cartel.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Riley's daughter is tragically gunned down along with her husband.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Anyone and everyone who was involved in the murder of Riley's husband and daughter meets a brutal and in some cases also ironic demise at her hands.
  • Rich Bitch: Peg is from the richer side of Los Angeles, and sets up the situation that gets Riley North's family where they could be gunned down by Cartel thugs. Later Peg gets her comeuppance, receiving the punch that daughter Carly North said she should have gotten five years ago, for being bitchy towards Riley and Carly, and it's revealed that during the interval between the shooting and Riley's return to LA Peg was left by her husband for a Trophy Wife.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Much of the film is about Riley's working her way through the local Cartel branch to kill all responsible for her family's death.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: The judge and lawyer of the murderers are in the pocket of the cartel, leading to the acquittal of the killers.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: After being escorted into an ambulance following the trial when she is not only ruled against and the perps are allowed to walk, but she is also put on a psychiatric hold, she grabs an oxygen tank and knocks out Carmichael, escapes, and goes off the grid completely after robbing the bank where she worked and military grade weapons from a warehouse.
  • Sequel Hook: Beltran helps Riley escape from the hospital.
  • "Spread Wings" Frame Shot: Peppermint has a poster with Riley standing in front of wall art that looks like angel wings. Closer inspection reveals that the "feathers" are actually bullets, which fits with how she is seen within the film — some characters view her as a protective guardian angel figure, others just see her as a killer.
  • Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist: Detective Moises Beltran knows that he's chasing a person who's killing criminals exclusively, but still pursues her because she's still breaking the law. At the end of the film, he helps her escape confinement, after telling her that many in the LAPD applaud her actions.
  • Time Skip: Five years pass between the murders and Riley's assault on those responsible.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Riley, in spades.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Well, she was definitely a kind person the earliest we saw of her. Not a trace of that is left after the tragic murder of her family.
  • Vengeful Widow: She wants justice, but suffice it to say she falls under here as well.
  • Vigilante Execution: Courtesy of Riley, who does this to anyone deemed responsible for the miscarriage of justice at the trial five years ago, and the Cartel, especially the killers and the cartel leader himself, Diego Garcia.
  • Vigilante Woman: Failed by a legal system made ineffective by corruption, Riley North takes matters into her own hands and takes on the criminals responsible for her family's death.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Riley's final showdown with Garcia consists of this. Upon confronting Garcia, she goads him into fighting her, despite being seriously wounded to retaliate, and suffers a brief but brutal No-Holds-Barred Beatdown from him, but manages to stall him long enough for the police to arrive. She then chases down Garcia and manages to shoot him in the head in front of the police before escaping.
  • Would Hurt a Child:
    • The gunmen who killed Riley's family were no more bothered by killing her daughter than they were the husband that was the actual target of their drive-by shooting.
    • Diego Garcia doesn't show any hesitation or remorse about threatening to kill a homeless child to lure Riley out of hiding.


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