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Film / Peppermint

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"We have an angel now."

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.
  • 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 where 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 García also ends up as this at the end.
  • An Asskicking Christmas: It's set a few days before Christmas.
  • Bad Boss: García's irateness isn't just limited to his rent-a-girlfriends. He's also prone to treating his men like The Chew Toy whenever they fail him or he jumps to wrong conclusions.
  • Bastard Boyfriend: In a scene where Diego was in a meeting with one of the cartel overseers, he lovingly caresses the arm of a fling of his. Whom turns to look at his guest revealing a black eye, he then goes and tells her to fuck off before getting down to business.
  • Best Served Cold: Riley disappears for five years before returning for payback.
  • Big Bad: Diego García 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.
  • Bribe Backfire: Briefly features; the defence lawyer in the initial case attempts to bribe Riley to withdraw her charges, but Riley violently rejects the offered money.
  • 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.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Lampshaded heavily by Riley regarding the corrupt judge. She outright tells him that he must be so corrupt that she probably didn't even stand out. She says she'll let him go...if he can tell Riley her name. He can't.
    • same can be said of Diego García, whom didn't even know who Riley was up until one of his flunkies brought the deaths of his men and a couple of courtroom stooges from five years ago to his attention. Being the pompous bully he is, the mobster thinks assigning her a bounty will solve all his problems. He is sorely mistaken.
  • 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, which naturally gets the law on her tail.
  • 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 (even though Riley tries to insist that she has only been offered the drugs and isn't actually taking them). 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 Cartel: Diego García heads up the local branch of a powerful Latin American drug-trafficking syndicate in LA. They are the main antagonists as Riley, a woman whose family their thugs murdered, goes after them.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: The corrupt judge suffers a bit of this at Riley's hands. She isn't even after crucial information, but just wants to know if he even remembered her name after letting her family's killers walk five years ago.
  • The Cowl: Riley'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 complicit court that got them off the hook, are responsible for turning Riley into their own worst nightmare.
  • Crusading Widow: And how. Riley 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 García, 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 García.
  • 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.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: Not even the guys he works for like Garcia all that much, his own employer spiting him as just another "little dog" before leaving.
  • 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.
  • Hate Sink: Amongst a select few, Diego García stands out as a particularly unlikable piece of crap. A family murderer, a system corruptor, a girlfriend basher and an out and out violent gangster; whom would even rig fixed fights by holding orphan kids hostage against his enemies. Needless to say, no tears were shed when the vigilante widower fulfilled her promise in the end.
  • He Knows Too Much: Carmichael murders Inman when the latter gets too close to the truth about his involvement with the Cartel.
  • Hero Insurance: Averted. Riley is arrested for the crimes she's committed in the course of vengeance.
  • Hero Stole My Bike: After Riley intimidates a drunk father at gunpoint to clean up his act, she walks up to the befuddled kid behind the store counter and, after telling him 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.
  • Hollywood Law: Let's just say that the hearing Riley takes place in where her family's killers get off bears absolutely zero resemblance to how an actual hearing would go. But without it we wouldn't have a plot. It's also somewhat justified as the judge is in their pocket. It's also implied that the prosecutor is too, along with the police, or are at least afraid of opposing the cartel.
  • 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.
  • In Medias Res: The film opens with Riley killing one of her targets in a car and performing Worst Aid on herself.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Not from a legal standpoint, but the police chief's incarcerating Riley on the grounds that she committed a crime against mobsters who so happened to've murdered her family. Just makes him sound like an incompetent ass braying complaints of another accomplishing what he and most of his donut munchers lacked the incentive of doing. Despite it being their jobs.
  • 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, with the defence counsel having tried to bribe Riley previously and subsequently claiming that her testimony is invalid due to her being on antipsychotic medication that makes her memory unreliable (despite Riley insisting that she hasn't even been taking the medication but was just prescribed it). 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.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: During the climax, Detective Stan Carmichael, a Dirty Cop secretly on Diego García's payroll and who recently executed Agent Inman by gunshot, resorts to flashing his badge and revealing his identity to the cops who were led to Riley's location by the latter using the deceased Agent's phone. Sure enough, García is now convinced that Carmichael sold him out and shoots him to death in retaliation.
  • Let Off by the Detective: At the end, Beltran gives Riley a handcuff key when she's under arrest in the hospital, allowing her to escape, since he agrees with her vigilante killings.
  • 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 García 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.
  • Never My Fault: The police who say she must answer for her crimes, even after it's been proven that the corruption in their department helped instigate the events in the film.
  • No Holds Barred Beat Down: Near the climax of the movies, Riley handed local scumbag García a particularly satisfying throttling before shooting him in the face like she said she would.
  • 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.
  • Obnoxious Entitled Housewife: Peg is introduced as a rich Girl Scout mom threatening to lodge a formal complaint against Working-Class Hero Riley over a parking spot.
  • 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, García 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 García'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.
  • Police Are Useless: Oh, Less Than. In point of fact. The only thing the boys in blue did right was arrest Riley for doing their jobs for them. She accomplished in five seconds what a whole precinct of LA's finest and the freaking CIA couldn't do in five years! More than, given she wasn't anyone special at first. Just the final straw that broke the camels back.
  • Rage Against the Legal System: The corrupt judge, cops and lawyers who were complicit in the Miscarriage of Justice half-a-decade ago are not spared Riley's wrath, needless to say.
  • Recycled Premise: This film is basically a Spiritual Successor to Law Abiding Citizen, starring a Distaff Counterpart.
  • Rich Bitch: Peg is from the richer side of Los Angeles, and inadvertently 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.
  • Scout-Out: The film opens with a scene where Peg complains that Riley is selling Firefly cookies on her turf.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: The judge and lawyer of the murderers are in the pocket of the cartel, leading to the dismissal of the case against them.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: What the sentiment shared by detective Moises and others on the force after all that Riley did, which was more helpful to local law enforcement and the neighborhood community as a whole than a sweaty, marginally overweight no account atop a podium seen on stupid local news said it had been, was towards Mrs. North while checking in on her at the hospital. Hence his secretly facilitating her escape.
    Beltran : You killed a looooooot of very bad people, took down a massive drug operation, exposed dirty bastards; in my own department. There's not a cop I know that... well. Lets just say, some of us wish it didn't have to be this way. Well, hope you get better soon.
  • 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.
  • Too Dumb to Live: García, big time. The movie's entire plot was kickstarted when the thugs who murdered Riley's family got off scott-free because the judge was on the cartel's payroll. So what does García do when Riley has him at gunpoint ? He gloats that she'll spend more time in prison than him, hinting that he's planning to corrupt the judge again to get away with his crimes. It goes about as well as you'd expect.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Riley, in spades. After escaping being sent to a mental institution, she robs her own bank, then disappears for the next 5 years, training in martial arts and firearms, before returning as a One Woman Army.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Peg just had a last-minute party to ensure that nobody would attend Carly's birthday, thus putting Riley's husband and daughter in a position to be killed and driving Riley herself on the path to becoming a vigilante.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Well, Riley 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.
  • 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 García.
  • Vigilante Woman: Failed by a legal system made ineffective due to corruption, Riley North takes matters into her own hands to stick it to the criminals responsible for her family's death.
  • You're Insane!: Riley gets this so often from people, both direct and indirectly, that she cannot help but give a lowkey wry chuckle every now and then when hearing it. Who can blame her in all honesty?
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Riley's final showdown with García consists of this. Upon confronting García, she goads him into fighting her, despite being seriously wounded, ending up suffering 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 García, repays his respect in kind and manages to shoot him in the face 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 García doesn't show any hesitation or remorse about threatening to kill homeless children to lure Riley out of hiding.