(On Cable TV, May 2019) In the spirit of gender equality, let’s agree not to give a free pass to gender-swapped bad movies such as Peppermint, taking on a hackneyed tale of vigilante violence that was tiresome when it was called Death Wish and only making it distinctive by putting Jennifer Garner in the lead role. Now, I’ll be among the last to complain about Garner getting steady work, and I will admit that her performance here is as ferocious and convincing as any other female actress. But there’s no getting around the idea that Peppermint is a terrible premise wrapped in even worse execution: If you can make it past the overwrought first fifteen minutes (in which an ordinary mom sees her family gunned down, then the murderer set free by a corrupt judge and herself committed to a mental asylum) without rolling your eyes helplessly, well, you may be ready for the rest of the film in which that ordinary mom resurfaces five years later after a self-imposed worldwide combat training tour. Her rampage of revenge is as predictable as it is tedious—we know where it’s going, and not even director Pierre Morel’s journeyman direction can dissipate the stone-cold ennui of seeing that same damn story play out once more. The film, as befits our morally corrupt social-media era, is not conflicted as much as it’s tacitly approving of the violence perpetrated by its so-called heroic character—there’s little exploration of the corruption of the heroine and quite a bit of cheering for revenge, and hopefully nobody innocent gets killed in the crossfire. As you can guess, I’m getting really tired of those kinds of dress-up medium-budget exploitation movies, no matter the gender flip. In fact, the gender flip may even make it worse—there’s a lot of material to explore in traditional nurturing notions of female strength being sent up through vigilante violence, but Peppermint can barely conceive of such an argument, much less explore it. What a waste. At least Garner should be able to get herself a few action movie roles now that she’s got Peppermint on her resume, not exactly erasing Elektra’s shame as much as updating it.