MOVIE REVIEW – A prolific crime writer teams up with a hunky homicide detective to track down a killer in this painfully clichéd Netflix murder mystery. While trying to solve a real-life murder, Milano plays a crime writer and decides to dress up in a dominatrix costume to try to “catch” the killer. The Netflix adaptation of the Nora Roberts novel mixes online perversion, murder mystery and a comically total lack of believability.
In the opening of Netflix’s psychological thriller Brazen, crime novelist Grace Miller (Alyssa Milano) insists that her books, which feature gruesome murders of women, are not kitschy but instructive. “They are about the exploitation of women, misogyny and patriarchy,” she declares.
The Brazen is a totally predictable and typically American TV movie, a crime thriller combined with the soft-cover romance books of the nineties. The film’s story has much less lofty aims. The film is based on a novel of similar quality by prolific author Nora Roberts. Director Monika Mitchell has made several identical TV movies – an ideal pairing for a typically shoddy and below-average Netflix movie, with which the streaming channel is often eviscerated.
Clichés and shoddy writing
The story begins with big-city Grace travelling to the suburbs to help her sister Kathleen (Emilie Ullerup) with a child custody lawsuit. But when the meeting is interrupted by a gruesome murder, the plot takes a different direction. A grieving and terrified Grace vows to use her writer’s instincts to track down the killer, with the help of the handsome homicide detective Ed (Sam Page), who lives next door.
In fact, when we first meet Grace (Milano), she is giving a public reading of her latest novel, and we immediately notice that the writing is terrible, when it shouldn’t be. It’s only a few minutes long, but it’s a telling moment that, as poor, as the script is, Grace’s fictional writing is equally pathetic. To accept that this woman is a writer, the scriptwriters would have had to live up to the task in just two whole paragraphs, and even that they failed.
But back to the frantic story. Kath, who still lives in the Washington house where they grew up, needs Grace to sign a mortgage to hire a lawyer to negotiate full custody of her young son, who is currently in the malign care of her “rich and well-connected” ex-husband (David Lewis). Kath proudly admits that she has kicked her pill addiction and has successfully found a job teaching at a local high school. She doesn’t tell her sister that she is also secretly working as a webcam ‘performer’, turning a closed studio behind her bedroom into a domino for paying online customers.
She’s just finished one of these sessions when a burglar attacks her, and her body is later discovered when visiting Grace returns from her first date with Ed (Sam Page), the neighbourhood homicide detective. Believing that her novels are bestsellers because she can “get inside the minds of murderers,” the harried but enthusiastic Grace insists on “assisting” the investigation, which Ed and his partner Ben (Malachi Weir) quickly assign her to. Perhaps the most incredible element of the otherwise implausible plot here is that this request has to be assented to, and even approved in writing, by the Chief of Police (Alison Araya), despite our heroine’s apparent personal conflicts – not least the fact that she is romantically involved with the detective (and now living in his house).
Meanwhile, the same perpetrator targeted other women making equally perverse livestreams. The suspects include Grace’s nasty ex and two of her students (Matthew Aaron Finlan, Daniel Diemer), the school’s janitor (Aaron Paul Stewart), people connected to the streaming site she used to work for and more.
Choose from the hat!
Faceless follows the usual script for this type of story in terms of structure. You make up a murder and populate the film with one weirdo after another (in this case, young guys, Kathleen being a real “milf” teacher). You spend about ten minutes on each weird guy to make the audience believe he did it. Then it’s on to the next one. When you’ve run out of weirdos, you put their names in a hat and pick one to pin it on. After that, you have nothing to do but find some way to crawl the killer’s spleen.
Actors of better fortune do their job to match the silly dialogue and implausible plot somehow. Perhaps Alyssa Milano is at her most amateurish in the role, which is somewhat surprising, given that we are dealing with a seasoned, now an older actress.
Because of these missteps, you can also say that Brazen is a typical case of “so bad it’s fun”. It is not dull but strikingly stupid. It’s not “I’m sick of this”; it‘s “I can’t believe what I’m seeing.” Category.
So watch it, especially if you’re immortal, otherwise this movie is a waste of your life.