Films I Neglected To Review: No Wonder Everyone Fled To TorontoBy Peter Sobczynski
Posted 09/07/18 15:17:36
Please enjoy short reviews of "Mara," "Nelly" and "Peppermint."
The problem with ''Mara'' isn’t so much that it isn't scary--though it is not in the least bit frightening unless one finds the very notion of sleep paralysis to be inherently triggering--as it is dull. The entire thing lumbers along in such a listless manner that it feels as if the film itself is suffering from some form of paralysis. The screenplay by Jonathan Frank is the usual compilation of cliche characters and stock situation and director Clive Tonge is unable to generate any sense of tension or style or excitement--even the big ''BOO!'' moments come across as more exhausted than anything else. Kurylenko is an actress whose career has been eclectic enough to find her co-starring in James Bond movies and Terrence Malick joints but not even she can quite manage to do anything with her one-note character to bring her to life. Filled with scenes and ideas that you have seen before that have been executed here in a manner that never even rises to the level of perfunctory, ''Mara'' is just a waste of time for all concerned and while it might be slightly better than total crap like ''The Nun,'' the fact that it isn't that much better is perhaps the only aspect of the film that could legitimately be deemed terrifying.
As for the narrative itself, the decision to not give any one of the various Nelly’s dominance over the others sounds smart but it means that the film keeps switching from one version to the next without ever letting things build properly and it never seems to have any idea of who the real Nelly was after all--not the kind of half-baked conclusion that you want to arrive at after two hours. (One could argue, of course, that Nelly was a person who could be more than one thing--a good point but one that the film doesn't quite manage to make either.) Playing all but the teenaged version of Arcan, Mylene Mackay is good at suggesting the different aspects of her character but the performance is not revelatory enough to overcome the otherwise half-baked nature of the film as a whole. Maybe a straightforward documentary would have been a better vehicle for telling Arcan's story in a way that fully encompassed all of its complexities in a more satisfying manner than ''Nelly'' does.
Imagine a lesser ''Death Wish'' ripoff sporting a MAGA hat and you have a vague idea of what you are in for with ''Peppermint,'' an odious would-be thriller that somehow manages to come across as both wildly offensive and incredibly boring. Jennifer Garner, for reasons that completely elude me, stars as Riley, an ordinary soccer mom who sees her husband and daughter gunned down before her eyes by members of a Hispanic drug gang led by the ruthless Diego Garcia (Juan Pablo Raba). Although Riley can identify the shooters, Diego pays off the lawyers and judge and the killers get off scot-free while Riley gets sentenced to a mental hospital. She promptly escapes and disappears off the grid for five years before reappearing to enact a mission of revenge that finds her gunning down everyone (and everyone adjacent to them) responsible for taking away everything she had. While a drunk cop (John Gallagher Jr.) and a smart FBI agent (Annie Ilonzeh) lead the hunt to track Riley down, her trail of carnage and dead bodies makes her a hero on social media for her willingness to take the law into her own hands.
Even if you can somehow excuse or justify the overt racism on display in virtually every scene in ''Peppermint,'' there is the inescapable fact that it sucks runny eggs simply in action movie terms. The film finds director Pierre Morel revisiting territory that he explored in the surprise hit ''Taken'' and while that film was undeniably nasty and kind of xenophobic, it was nevertheless made with a lot of style and flair and contained a strong and effective performance from Liam Neeson. By comparison, ''Peppermint'' is a slog that contains plenty of moments of gruesome brutality but the action sequences are dreary and oddly inert slogs that fail to generate any sort of tensions or visceral excitement. In fact, the only thing that might keep viewers paying attention to the film as it goes on is the anticipation that something will come up that would explain why Jennifer Garner would sign on to a project as sleazy and unrewarding as this one. She is an enormously likable actress and has proven herself to be more than convincing in the past in action roles but there is nothing on display that suggests why she might have wanted what is little more than a racist remake of ''The Punisher'' on her filmography. On every conceivable level, ''Peppermint'' is an embarrassment--the kind of movie that makes ''Mile 22'' look coherent and nuanced by comparison.
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