Netflixable? A Dominatrix is dead? Alyssa Milano’s on the case, and “Brazen” about it

We’ve figured out where the murder mystery/thriller “Brazen” is going long before our heroine finds herself in the presence of the murderer in the “explain it all” talk talk talk finale. Truth be told, there aren’t a lot of surprises in this slow-pokey Alyssa Milano star vehicle for Netflix.

When you’ve cast the beautiful “Charmed” and “Insatiable” alumna as a murder mystery novelist whose sister, a school teacher who moonlighted as an on-line dominatrix and was murdered, there’s plenty for the viewer to take for granted.

The novelist will somehow wrangle a way to “contribute” to the case, preferably with the hot police detective neighbor (Sam Page of TV’s “The Bold Type”), even if it’s the D.C.P.D. we’re talking about and not some suburban “Murder, She Wrote” sheriff’s dept. And considering what her sister (Emilie Ullerup) was up to in her spare time, in her spare room/streaming video studio, you can pretty much start the countdown on when Milano will vamp up in vinyl and give a whip and a push-up bra a workout.

Perhaps the biggest surprise to “Brazen” is that Milano, director Monika Mitchell and three credited screenwriters tried to get something lurid and sexy out of a movie with a Hallmark Channel (TV-14) rating. Failing to accomplish that is no surprise at all.

Novelist Grace Miller has “an instinct for motivation, it’s why my books are so successful.” Her specialty?

“You make a fortune writing about women getting murdered,” her sister Kathleen cracks. Sis has barely summoned Grace “home” for a planning session on a child custody fight she’s about to wage and Grace has barely flirted the evening away with hunky/handyman Det. Ed (Page) who lives next door, when Grace walks in to find Kathleen dead on the floor.

The gulping, wordless meltdown Milano plays in that scene is her best acting in the movie and perhaps the most defensibly logical moment in it. It’s how anyone would act.

Much less logical is the way she tries to arm-twist that detective and his partner (Malachi Weir of TV’s “Billions”) into letting her in on their investigation. Even if their boss (Alison Araya) is a fan, Grace the fiction writer rules herself out with her reasoning for inclusion.

“It’s real, and it’s personal.”

“Brazen” proceeds thenceforth from three points of view. We follow the cops and Grace following her “instincts” to serve them up a list of suspects (the ex husband, any creep who knew the real identity of online dominatrix Desiree, as her sister called herself). And occasionally we see what the web-savvy is up to, a person fond of hoodies and capable of charging in on a victim mid-“session” for the attacks.

Victim’s cause of death? “Strangulation.”

Every attempt in the script to make this all seem logical plays like cut-rate Agatha Christie — dated, quaint and a tad ludicrous. And Milano’s Grace, given the lines she delivers and the mostly-obvious (or contrived) clues she uncovers, is no Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple.

Still, our star isn’t just TV famous. She’s a Twitter activist with a huge fan base. The instinct to “Let’s build a murder mystery around her for Netflix” is defensible. Maybe she’ll come off better in one with more charm, intrigue and edge to it next time. Titling a thriller about a dead dominatrix “Brazen,” and working for aTV-14 rating? Might as well be making a “Christmas prince” movie for the gift card channel.

Rating:TV-14

Cast: Alyssa Milano, Sam Page, Malachi Wier, Emilie Ullerup

Credit: Directed by Monika Mitchell, scripted by Edithe Swenson, Donald Martin, Suzette Couture. A Netflix release.

Running time: 1:36

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
This entry was posted in Reviews, previews, profiles and movie news. Bookmark the permalink.

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