Sunday, September 9, 2018

Peppermint is a heartwarming family movie

I don't go to see many movies, but "Peppermint" is definitely a kind I enjoy.  I would have appreciated a lot more backstory such as "Man on Fire" had.  Even the line from the trailer, which explains the film's title, is missing from the final cut.  I definitely see the limitations of this movie, but the reaction among the literati has been predictably misguided.  According to the New York Times review, "the film plays dangerously into violent Latino stereotypes. One blood bath takes place in a piƱata warehouse, where Riley mows down Diego’s unsuspecting gang one by one...All of the dead appear to be Latinos (save for a couple of Korean mob allies), but she leaves the sole white guy working there alive in order to interrogate him."

(The following may contain spoilers.)  Let's start with the obvious problem:  all the dead are Latinos except the ones that aren't?  It wouldn't be credible to attack the idea of a Latino drug gang in Los Angeles, so the reviewer instead plays up the fact that the "dead people" resulting from an attack on the gang are Latino.  I'm curious how things could have turned out any differently.

I did not think that the person left alive was "white" (in the non-Latino sense) and I don't see any likely characters in the cast who could have been other than Latino, but let's grant her that point.  Maybe the filmmaker specifically chose to avoid killing a white person in this particular scene.  So, he's a hero?  No, he's a fink who gave away the gang's secrets and is unceremoniously dispatched in the very next scene.

That's at least one dead white person (if the reviewer is correct), but it's not the most significant by a longshot.  There is also the brutal killing of the white would-be robber of the gang, as well as the main character's family.  The reviewer seems not to have noticed that the single most screen time devoted to a killing is for the corrupt judge, a white man and thoroughly despicable person who gets his just deserts.   And speaking of despicable, probably the worst person in the movie is a corrupt white cop who also ends up being shot on screen.  Meanwhile, the heroic cop is Latino, and the hero twice puts herself in danger in the interest of protecting non-white girls.

The reviewer concludes, regarding the gang raid, "The moment says a lot about the way Hollywood continuously villainizes people of color and values certain lives over others."  It would be more true to say that her review says a lot about how some people are determined to find racism in everything, even when there is very little or no evidence for it.