Directed by Monika Mitchell.
Starring Alyssa Milano, Sam Page, Emilie Ullerup, Malachi Weir, Collen Wheeler, David Lewis, Matthew Finlan, and Barry W. Levy.
When crime-fiction author Grace Miller’s sister is murdered, and her double life as a webcam performer revealed, she ignores the warnings of detectives and gets involved in the case. As the evidence stacks up, Grace decides to set a trap to catch her sister’s killer.
Based on the novel Brazen Virtue by Nora Roberts, Alyssa Milano stars as famous crime novelist Grace Miller. After an urgent call she returns to her family home, inhabited by her sister Kathleen. A former pill addict who has recently divorced her wealthy husband and lost custody of her child, she is now clean and works as a teacher at the local school. Kathleen seeks Grace’s help to regain full custody of her son, but keeps her work as a webcam performer secret. Soon after Grace’s arrival, she is found dead in their home.
While Milano does a decent job of keeping the film afloat, it is not enough to distract from this paint-by-numbers crime story. Everything that happens in the film has been done countless times before on film and television, and to a much higher standard. The allure of a crime story, especially a whodunnit like this, is for it to be believable. It may be fiction, but it still needs a certain amount of grounding in reality. Much of Brazen‘s plot is completely implausible. The fact that she is allowed to be involved in the case at all is the most obvious impossibility, but there are also silly coincidences – like the fact that a homicide detective just happens to live next door.
Ignoring the implausibility, Brazen has some entertainment value as a crime thriller. There are plenty of shady suspects, each with some form of believable motive, and Milano’s character is smart and intuitive enough to conduct an interesting and thorough investigation. Milano herself plays the role well, showing versatility in the way she swings between toughness and vulnerability. Sometimes she’s a bit too vulnerable, especially to the charms of one neighbourly detective. The film is as much a romance as it is a crime drama, and sometimes those things just don’t mix.
The relationship between Grace and detective Ed progresses at the speed of light, with them immediately clinging to each other. They go on their first date the night Kathleen is killed, but he seems to keep trying to impress the grief-stricken Grace despite her recent loss. Even more strangely, she’s into it. The romance does, however, inject something more into an extremely run-of-the-mill crime thriller.
In Brazen, Grace says that her books are about the patriarchy and the exploitation of women. There are times when the film feels like it’s trying to make a point about the same thing. Unfortunately, it completely misses the mark, and the fact that it centres around the murder of a sex worker means that it just ends up mimicking the same exploitation it’s trying to decry. This attempt at a deeper message is distracting from what otherwise is typical genre fare.
Brazen may be cheesy, unoriginal, and predictable, but Milano keeps the ship afloat. This is a basic crime thriller that provides a few cheap thrills and a certain level of enjoyment if you don’t try to take it seriously.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Lauren Miles is a freelance film and television journalist who loves all things gothic, fantasy and film noir. She has an MA in Multimedia Journalism and is also a Halloween enthusiast and cat lady. You can find her on Twitter @Lauren_M1les.