The trailer for Peppermint knows exactly what it's doing. Jennifer Garner's character is shown at a carnival with her husband and her daughter, who, as Garner says, "has love in her heart, snow in her eyes, and peppermint in her blood." Then, the next thing you know, the husband and daughter are murdered. It could not be clearer that a revenge story is coming. But is Peppermint a true story? Definitely not.
First of all, to go back to the plot for a minute, after Garner's Riley North wakes up from being in a coma, she finds out that her husband and daughter are dead, that all the suspects are from the "García cartel," and that no witnesses have been willing to come forward. A corrupt justice system then lets the murderers go free, and Riley decides to go off the grid to train as a vigilante for five years. Does it sound like a potentially badass plot and something that would definitely come from the director of Taken? Yes. But is it true? Hell to the no. Starting with the fact that if a white lady disappeared for five years and became a murderous vigilante who was taking down a Latin American cartel, that would be on the news, like, every second of every day.
Also, if you watch the trailer, you'll see that it has much more of a superhero movie vibe than a true story feel. At one point a group of detectives stand around a computer and one says, "Social media's lit up with support for her," which feels like a classic "Spider-Man's in the news yet again!" line. Riley also wears a cape-like garment with a hood, and a mural is painted in her honor in which she's shown with angel wings. It's hard to not just think of her as a superhero named Peppermint, which is probably the point.
And while Jennifer Garner kicking ass and taking names is all well and good, the setup of this movie seems to veer pretty white savior, at least based on the trailer. For instance, at one point in the trailer someone says, "It's not a coincidence that makes this area low crime. It is low crime because of her." There's also the fact that she's taking down something called the "García cartel" and, seemingly, killing people who weren't directly involved in the murder of her husband and daughter. In a piece about the trailer on Remezcla, Manuel Betancourt wrote,
Listen, we know these kinds of movies need villains. And drug cartels are as easy targets as anything else out there. Especially right now. But hot off the heels of films like Gringo and Sicario: Day of the Soldado, you have to wonder what kind of lazy storytelling is going on where the danger lurking just outside a perfect suburban existence are pesky Mexican drug warlords.
Betancourt also asks what the film might have looked like if the lead was played by a Latina actor, writing, "it could’ve exemplified how often it’s the women on both sides of the border — mothers especially — who carry the burden of the cycle of violence that the war on drugs perpetuates."
Monica Castillo, a writer for The Lily, took things a step forward and wrote that while she doesn't usually like to judge films too much based on their trailers, this one was too hard to ignore. "This no longer feels like a trailer for an upcoming movie but the beginning of anti-Latino propaganda," Castillo writes.
It's totally fine to be excited about seeing Garner in an action role (especially for any Alias fans out there), but at least with the trailer for Peppermint — again, it makes sense to reserve judgement until seeing the movie — it's hard to just focus on her fight scenes and quest for justice. Peppermint might not be a true story, but it's understandable if some end up findng it uncomfortable in a very real way.