Alyssa Milano plays a crime novelist helping police find her sister’s murderer in the new Netflix thriller “Brazen”. Based on the 1988 novel “Brazen Virtue” by Nora Roberts, this by-the-numbers murder mystery makes an effort, but it’s never able to get above room temperature. Admittedly, some of the unintentional silliness is actually kinda fun. But ultimately it plays like a movie that would get mixed reviews on the Hallmark Channel.
“Brazen” is directed by Monika Mitchell from a script co-written Edithe Swensen, Donald Martin, and Suzette Couture. Early on the movie resembles a relationship drama with glimmers of promise. But you quickly begin to wonder if Mitchell and the film’s trio of writers watched A LOT of television crime mysteries for inspiration. Their movie follows the formula beat for beat before coming unglued in a ridiculous third act where the thing crumbles under the weight of absurdity.
Milano’s Grace Miller is a popular novelist promoting her latest book when she gets an urgent call from her sister Kathleen (Emilie Ullerup) who she hasn’t seen in five years. Grace flies to Washington DC where Kathleen lives in their old family home. After some initial petty bickering, they get down to the reason Kathleen called.
Turns out Kathleen has a troubled past where she left her husband and son after becoming addicted to pain meds. It led to an ugly divorce. But now that she’s off the pills and has a steady job teaching at a prominent private high school, she wants custody of their son. But she’s worried that her rich, well-connected, and fittingly scummy ex-hubby Jonathan (David Lewis) will smear her in court as the ‘bad mother’. But she has an ace up her sleeve. She has information proving Jonathan has been stealing from his family’s trust. Should she use the information as leverage? She has a lot of decisions and she needs some sisterly advice.
What Grace doesn’t know is that her sister has a kinky internet alter-ego, a dominatrix named Desiree. Kathleen dresses up and performs for online “clients” from a secret studio hidden behind a padlocked door in her closet. Her virtual one-on-ones are hosted by a company called Fantasy Inc. Not much subtlety in that company name.
Enter muuuurder. After finishing up an evening performance, Kathleen is attacked and strangled to death in her bedroom. Immediately, hunky homicide detective Ed Jennings (Sam Page) is put on the case. He also happens to be Kathleen‘s next-door neighbor. As you might expect, Grace and Ed hit it off, leading to a lukewarm (at best) romantic angle.
And then things really get ridiculous. After two more Fantasy Inc. performers are attacked, Grace’s “instinct for motive” is all it takes to convince the police captain to put her on the case with Ed, granting her full access to all the department’s evidence, witnesses, and resources (is it really that easy?). It all leads to a preposterous final 30 minutes as the movie’s bland and utterly forgettable mystery is reveal. Call it a fitting finish for a movie that you will have forgotten before the end credits finish rolling. “Brazen” is now streaming on Netflix.