True crime podcasts are a dime a dozen these days, but it’s easy to see why they capture the imagination of their eager listeners as the plot unfolds like that of any murder mystery novel. This genre of storytelling has always had an audience throughout the generations that are hooked on the suspense and danger of the narrative. When Brazen came along, an original film on Netflix, I thought this may have the ability to really tap into something interesting. Especially as the film is based on best seller Brazen Virtue by Nora Roberts.
The film, directed by Monika Mitchell, depicts a famous author (Grace, played by Alyssa Milano) who returns to her childhood home at the request of her sister who’s battling her powerful, and rich, ex-husband for custody of their young son. Things go from bad to worse when Grace’s sister is found dead, and her double life as a freelance web dominatrix is uncovered. Deep within the clutches of grief, Grace vows to catch her sisters killer, while also catching feelings for her next-door neighbor and handsome detective Ed, played by Sam Page.
There is no simple way to ease into this review with the nuance that I’d have hoped for, but with full disclosure in mind, I’ve got to say this film is just devoid of entertainment value. I’ve toiled on how best to compose my opinions on why it failed to evoke literally any reaction from me other than utter boredom. The film winds up one-dimensional and it just results in this lifeless attempt of storytelling.
Having not read the book, my hope is that either this adaptation was poorly done, or just that the adaptation itself was flawed as there’s some subtlety that’s lost in translation.
Ultimately the film comes across as a very basic attempt at a crime thriller with a love twist that was originally intended to be a lifetime movie. But Brazen never really hits either of its cornerstone genres so it just falls between the cracks of the couch.
If we begin detailing the crime thriller aspect of the movie and why it breaks down, there’s little to no tension. The scenes with the murderer are few and fleeting, and there’s not enough effort made to elevate these sequences to drive home to the audience of the danger, or the threat his victims are under. Without that fear underpinning the scenes it results in an immediate lack of suspense.
The film instead tries to lean on the relationship between Grace, and Ed as they muddle through the investigation in less than favorable circumstances and overcome the odds to find each other. Bleh. Not only does the concept of this sound overly tacky, but the film rushes through the character development and you never feel the connection with Milano and Page’s character. That and the two share very little chemistry. What I found when watching the two on-screen was oh here’s two very pretty actors pretending to be attracted to each other. Again reinforces the feeling that film is just very basic, and lifeless. Neither actor delivered performances that were particularly enjoyable, or believable.
Finally, the tropes. Oh sweet film gods, the tropes. Brazen is so heavy-handed with the tropes that three quarters in I found myself rolling my eyes hard enough that I was worried they’d roll out the back of my head. Grizzled but charming and handsome next-door detective, attractive crime author with an empowering sense of getting to the truth no matter what, the world of sex being paralleled with dangerous unhinged obsessive killers and perverts, disgruntled ex-husbands with lots of money, and a toxic belief in misogyny, the film even has a no-nonsense police Captain that demands results now and less of your attitude!
Brazen is a poor attempt at a romantic crime thriller, that gets neither aspect right and stumbles at every step. The acting is poor, the romance feels forced, and there’s no chemistry between the two protagonists. It lacks danger, fear, and suspense so it has no right to be described as a thriller. There are more tropes in this film than I thought possible, and the ending is not particularly impactful. Do yourself a favor and skip this one.
Brazen is available now exclusively on Netflix.
Brazen is a poor attempt at a romantic crime thriller, that gets neither aspect right and stumbles at every step. The acting is poor, the romance feels forced, and there’s no chemistry between the two protagonists. It lacks danger, fear and suspense so it has no right to be described as a thriller. There are more tropes in this film than I thought possible, and the ending is not particularly impactful. Do yourself a favor and skip this one.