Directed by Monika Mitchell.
Starring Alyssa Milano, Sam Page, Emilie Ullerup, Matthew Finlan, Malachi Weir, Alison Araya, Colleen Wheeler, Daniel Diemer, David Lewis, Barry W. Levy, and Lossen Chambers.
When her sister is killed and her double life as a webcam performer is revealed, Grace ignores the warnings of a cool-headed detective and gets involved in the case.
During the grand identity reveal of the killer in Brazen, there’s a line toward Alyssa Milano’s mystery novelist and acute profiler Grace Miller, observing that she doesn’t seem surprised. Neither are we. Directed by Monika Mitchell (with Suzette Couture, Donald Martin, and Edithe Swensen collaborating to adapt the novel by Nora Roberts), this is not only a predictable narrative that falls into several genre clichés but also one that fails at depicting any involving romantic chemistry between its case-cracking leads or anything remotely authentic or erotic or thoughtful to say when it comes to adult entertainment camming (the targets of the serial killer on the loose).
The homicide in question is personal to Grace, urged by her high school teaching, double life leading sex working sister Kathleen/Desiree (briefly played by Emilie Ullerup) to return home and offer some emotional support as she is gearing up to sue her ex-husband for fraud, effectively blackmailing him for full custody of their child. Such plans are short-lived when an intruder breaks into Kathleen’s home one night while doing a show in her secret room, left murdered and soon after revealing to Grace this whole other side.
While all of this went down, Grace was getting closer to the handsome nearby detective Ed (Sam Page), as they naturally share an affinity for investigating crime, albeit through different methods. One would think that such a dynamic would make for a compelling examination of how they individually approach solving the murder, not just because it’s personal but also due to a writer of fiction stepping into a real-world case. Unsurprisingly, Ed takes much of this as a sign not to get too involved romantically and tries to protect Grace by keeping her out of the loop, at least until his partner and superiors are impressed by her deduction skills and experience finding someone labeled as the “Times Square rapist” some time ago, that they are forced to work together rather than merely request and trade various details they unearth.
Operating alone or together, Brazen takes viewers on a tour introducing multiple suspects (a school janitor that knew of her secret life, an employee of the website that enjoys creeping on the performers, various students that had different connections to her, and an icy senator) but only one logical culprit going off of both sensibility and film rules. It’s always painfully obvious who is innocent despite their connections to knowing the Desiree online persona, but what’s more frustrating (and what also causes the movie to drag) is that none of these characters are particularly interesting.
Also, after a second murder occurs (inspiring the question of if this is a serial killer or has spawned a copycat), it’s hard not to wonder what anyone within the vicinity of these killings is doing still camming. Fortunately, the adult entertainment service is allowed to record all of these sessions, but it becomes a tool of giving characters knowledge at a convenient time rather than having a conversation about a sex chat website holding on to this as data or how a killer could be so stupid to commit crimes on camera knowingly. More baffling is that the protagonists give up trying to do it the old-fashioned way so that they can lure out the killer for a showdown. Of course, this comes with its own ineptitude
What’s truly unforgivable is that none of this feels personal anymore by the end of the story. It’s a tragedy that brings two people together romantically where the one affected directly by the tragedy doesn’t seem bothered during the epilogue. It says is everything is okay and that this is actually a happy story because someone found love. However, it’s also nowhere near a love story per se. It’s easier to say that the tone of Brazen is disastrous. Accounting for that, idiotic characters, telegraphed motives and twists, consistent overacting throughout, and well, it doesn’t take much of a detective to figure out Brazen is terrible.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com