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The Controversial Jennifer Garner Movie That's Dominating Netflix

Who doesn't love a good revenge thriller? Audiences are proving that, despite what the critics write, they're always up for seeing Jennifer Garner take down some bad guys.

Peppermint premiered on Netflix on December 1, and though the film faced heavy criticism upon its release in 2018, subscribers are now diving in to see it for themselves. The thriller is currently ranked in the top 10 U.S. films streaming on the platform today.

In Peppermint, Garner stars as Riley North, a widowed mother seeking revenge against a cartel that killed her mechanic husband, Chris (Jeff Hephner), and their ten-year-old daughter. North, previously a Los Angeles banker, spends years in hiding as she prepares to avenge her family's murder. 

From there, Peppermint becomes a violent, gun-filled action-packed revenge story of the sort that Hollywood has been making for decades, ala the Death Wish series or Marvel's The Punisher. The familiarity of the subject matter might be why it didn't make a huge splash when it was released, combined with the fact that critics slammed the movie for relying on outdated stereotypes, dreary visuals, and what some claimed to be a direct-to-video feel. None of this reflected poorly on Garner herself — most critics acknowledged Garner's solid performance, the movie itself aside — but few expected Peppermint to make a comeback.

Clearly, however, Peppermint has found new life, and new fans, in the world of streaming, to the point where sequel buzz might be in the air.

Critics weren't happy with Peppermint

Widowed wife avenges the murder of her family. Sounds like an epic movie, right? Well, not to everyone. 

Upon its release, Peppermint was panned by critics for its violence. Scott Marks of the San Diego Reader openly speculated that Garner must have only done it for the money, wondering why else "would she agree to lend her name to what is essentially gun porn?" Other critics panned the film for perpetuating racist rhetoric. For instance, The New Yorker's film critic Richard Brody wrote that Peppermint is a "racist film that reflects the current strain of anti-immigrant politics and its paranoid focus on MS-13." He went on to write that it "leaves the feeling that it would be better for the world at large if this movie hadn't been made." Meanwhile, over on Forbes, critic Scott Mendelson argued that, "Ironically, the film's muddy visuals makes it look less like a glossy Hollywood flick and more like a straight-to-VOD action movie, the kind of which are currently doing quite well by Netflix."

It seems he wasn't wrong on the last part, given Peppermint's current Netflix success. 

Taken director Pierre Morel also helmed Peppermint, and it seems that — similar to their reaction to his mega-hit Liam Neeson franchise — general audiences sometimes have different opinions than critics do. Peppermint scored a 12 percent on Rotten Tomatoes among registered critics, but holds steady among everyday viewers, with an audience score of 71 percent. Additionally, Peppermint was a financial success, making more money than it cost by landing a worldwide box-office gross of $53.9 million

With Peppermint's resurgence on Netflix, Garner — who's no stranger to the action genre, having played CIA officer Sydney Bristow in the spy-action thriller series Alias and Marvel assassin Elektra in both Daredevil (2003) and Elektra (2005) — is proving that audiences will happily watch her kick butt any day of the week. And in the wake of Peppermint's surprising Netflix resurgence, could a sequel be on the way? 

With the unexpected Netflix comeback, could a Peppermint sequel be on the way?

Revenge flicks might seem like the perfect recipe for a one-and-done story: after all, once the vigilante has offed the ones who killed their family, wouldn't they hang up their gun? However, success breeds sequels, as demonstrated by the fact that Paul Kersey's war on crime in the original Death Wish extended to four more films. So, perhaps, it's no wonder that back when Peppermint released in 2018, there was some talk that it could follow the road of director Pierre Morel's Taken series. 

As reported by Variety, Garner's reliable stunt double, Shauna Duggins, had no problem telling the press that not only were there hopes pinned on a sequel, but that she was rooting for it to become an entire action movie series with Garner in the lead. "Don't we all dream that it can be? Absolutely. I mean, look at 'Taken.' It was phenomenal and then they did two more. Jen can pull it off, obviously."

Garner has, certainly, proven her ability as an action star. And while Peppermint struggled with controversy, a sequel could hypothetically take the parts of the movie that audiences did respond to, as proven by all those Netflix viewings — namely, Garner as a female action hero — and move away from the more troubling aspects. At this time of writing, none of the other cast and crew besides Duggins have opened up about sequel possibilities, but with the movie returning to the headlines, as well as the increasingly powerful role that Netflix is playing in the world of cinema, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, speculation is growing fast.

Peppermint can be streamed on Netflix.