Orange Wednesday: Peppermint (2018) and Sanjuro (1962)

Peppermint (2018)
Jennifer Garner in Peppermint (2018)

Every Wednesday, TMINE reviews two movies and infringes a former mobile phone company’s trademarked marketing gimmick

One of the nice things about doing TMINE is that it gives me a chance to watch things that either I’d never have known about without research or I’d never have got round to watching. Certain features of the blog have, in fact, specifically been geared up to this – Today’s Joanna Page, for example, may have seemed little more than an excuse to watch lots of Joanna Page, but it did enable me to watch some really quite good things I’d never probably have bothered with: Making Waves, David CopperfieldThe Cazalets, To The Ends of the Earth, to name but a few.

So it is with Orange Wednesday, which is forcing me to watch two movies a week. This is harder than it sounds, and not just because I’m lazy and have a lot of TV to watch as well. It’s because, actually, there aren’t that many good new movies out each week, even with Netflix getting in on the act. As a result, I’m having to hunt them out.

Of course, the downside is it also means I’m also watching some rubbish movies I would never have touched with a bargepole, otherwise.

Guess which categories this week’s Orange Wednesday movies fall into:

  • Peppermint (2018) – bank teller Jennifer Garner’s family is murdered, so she goes to seek her revenge
  • Sanjuro (1962) – Akira Kurosawa’s sequel to Yojimbo, in which ronin Toshiro Mifune helps a hapless bunch of clansmen deal with a corrupt local superintendent

Peppermint (2018)
Jennifer Garner in Peppermint (2018)

Peppermint (2018)

Currently an ‘Amazon exclusive’ but not actually made by Amazon, the mysteriously named Peppermint sees Jennifer Garner playing a mundane bank teller whose husband is  a bit short of cash, so is tempted to help a mate rob a local drug dealer. Unfortunately, even though he decides not to do it, the dealer finds out and decides to make an example of him. Cue Garner, husband and daughter all being shot down in front of a funfair.

Garner survives and is able to identify the killers, but the corrupt LA legal system means they get off. Garner goes ‘off the grid’ and after five years travelling the world learning how to kick ass, she comes back to LA to kill everyone responsible.

Directed by Taken‘s Pierre Morel, Peppermint does at least have plenty of good action scenes and Garner’s performance reminds you of how great she was in Alias and even Elektra. There are a few surprise character twists, with the script not quite following the standard plotting beats of vigilante movies, and Garner’s character is frequently imaginative in how she deals with adversity. The movie is also quite innovative as vigilante films go in its use of social media and smartphones – once you’ve watched it, you’ll wonder why other movies and TV shows are so slow to catch up with the YouTube revolution.

Otherwise, it’s no different from Death Wish et al and the fact that it’s Garner (white) meting out punishment almost exclusively to Latinos means the optics on it aren’t great. Not worth seeking out, but if you’re looking for some action and something not entirely stupid, Peppermint might float your boat.

Sanjuro

Sanjuro (1962)

The BFI’s currently offering a whole bunch of Kurosawa movies for £3.49 (rent)/£3.99 (buy) on iTunes and Amazon, something I wouldn’t have noticed were it not for Orange Wednesday, so I decided to pick up one of the few I inexplicably didn’t see in my Japanese film heyday of the early 90s to mid 90s. And I’m so glad I did.

Originally a straight adaptation of Shūgorō Yamamoto novel Hibi Heian, the success of Yojimbo (which later got adapted as A Fistful of Dollars) saw Sanjuro become a sequel, with Toshiro Mifune reprising that movie’s lead role of the unconventional ronin who reluctantly ends up helping the locals of whichever town he enters.

Here, a group of nine clansmen know that a local superintendent is corrupt and have reported it to the local chamberlain, confident that he’ll sort out the problem. Boy, they couldn’t be more wrong and they’ve now set a train of events in motion that will lead to their own deaths and the chamberlain’s abduction. Whoops.

Fortunately, Mifune overhears their problems and decides to help them – in his own, inimitable way.

Sanjuro is both brilliantly funny and a brilliant insight into How To Get Things Done. The clansmen are continually hapless, trying to do the right thing, but always in the wrong way, when a much better, much smarter, more politick way exists. Although Mifune certainly lets his sword do a lot of the talking, with some cracking kendo and iaido on display, the film is more like an episode of Mission: Impossible, with Mifune using misinformation and deception to set enemy against enemy. He has the smarts to intuit what’s really going on behind the scenes and how best to get what the clansmen want – if only they stopped trying to help him… The double-ending is also a fantastic coda, spelling out both the futility of violence and that indirect action is sometimes far better than direct action at achieving your aims.

Mifune is as exceptional and charismatic as always, but the script is fabulous and the rest of the cast are no shirks either. Particularly funny is Keijo Kobayashi as a prisoner who keeps forgetting he’s supposed to be working for the other side. I think I actually prefer it to Yojimbo, although Seven Samurai still remains Kurosawa’s masterpiece. Treat yourself – watch Sanjuro.

Advertisements