Sweet suffering algorithmic chaos! What have we done to deserve this movie? I mean, on the plus side, I snort-laughed several times while watching Brazen. On the downside, absolutely none of it is actually intended as humorous. Here’s the thing, though, the acting is not as offensively bad as I expected, and the surprise of that mostly carried me through watching the movie. Well, that and Sam Page’s face, which I enjoy looking at. Am I being clear that this is a TERRIBLE movie? It feels like they were making a movie and then they got tired of making a movie, but they had to finish making a movie, so they put as little effort into making the movie as possible. Also, this movie has an actual run-time of an hour and thirty-four minutes, but a perceived run-time of five hours and fifty-nine minutes. Brutal. But, wow, did it make me laugh out loud.

Grace (Alyssa Milano) is a well-known mystery writer who, by her own description, writes about “the exploitation of women and misogyny and the patriarchy and how we do so very little to protect the most vulnerable.” In case you, like I did, think this sounds incredibly promising, please know that it has absolutely no bearing on this movie, which has nothing intelligible or intelligent to say about any of those things. Grace is in the middle of a book tour, reading VERY dramatically from one of her books, when she gets a call from her maybe estranged sister Kathleen (Emilie Ullerup), and drops everything to be with her in Washington, D.C. 

Kathleen is a high school English teacher in recovery from an addiction to pills, who is desperate to get partial custody of her young son from her very wealthy (and very nasty) ex-husband. (This is laid out in about three minutes so we can hurry up and get to the murdery stuff. Geez, nobody cares about your positive life choices, Kathleen!) The two sisters have some extremely melodramatic conversations about, I can’t really remember about what, but finances and love and money and blackmail and such. You know, the usual cozy sister stuff. 

Grace and Kathleen discussing blackmail over glasses of red wine at a kitchen island.
I love how they’re both looking at each other so judgmentally here.

Now, of course, what Grace doesn’t know is that to make some extra cash Kathleen is also a web-cam dominatrix. She has a room that must have cost an entire fortune to outfit that she keeps locked up like Ft. Knox. (I exaggerate about the locks. There is one padlock.) I guess in case her son comes to visit? Anyway, you know what happens to women who do the sex work in movies like this one? Very bad things. That’s what! Nobody is judging them for their work. They would never! But by odd coincidence sex workers keep getting killed and stuff. So, the message seems to be that sex work is totally, totally cool (really), except that it’s also very dangerous because it gives emotionally unstable people (but men especially) a reason to hate and hunt women. And a movie like this one isn’t going to offer any kind of solution or way forward that provides more protection or control or respect for sex workers. It’s just going to continue to perpetuate the idea of them as victims. Okay, so I guess this is, in fact, commenting on the exploitation of women and misogyny and the patriarchy, but not in the positive way that I imagined when Alyssa Milano’s character made her speech.

Kathleen in her dominatrix room, which has a lot of costumes, decorations, a ring light, and an assortment of whips.
Of course we’ve all heard the old saw that you’ve got to spend money to make money, but if this is just a side hustle to earn enough to get her kid back…I mean, she maaay have over-invested? If she’s into being a dominatrix in her personal life then that’s a whole other thing, and it would make sense that she would have spent years accruing this collection. However, it doesn’t make sense that NO ONE would notice this sizable a chunk of her house being inaccessible. Also, her work as a dominatrix just seems to involve standing still, cracking a whip, and saying one or two lines.
Kathleen locking the door to her dominatrix room, which is inside her closet. There are shelves of shoes to her left.
Fine. I really overstated the whole Ft. Knox thing. But why is that whole-ass bedroom or whatever only accessed through this 3/4 sized doorway that’s inside her closet? Old houses are weird, but I don’t see how that room fits into the floor plan of her house at all, and it’s incredibly distracting.

Anyway, all of a sudden it’s like we’re dropped into a whole other movie because it cuts to a man in a convenience store buying an herbal tea and a coffee. Then, an armed robber bursts into the scene, demanding cash and valuables. The tea and coffee man appears to be complying with the gunman’s request for his phone and wallet until, without warning, he’s disarming the gunman and tackling him in aisles. In the midst of this chaos, another man walks through the store’s front door, leans down over the two men still locked into combat, and asks the coffee and tea man where his coffee is. Okay, so I was wrong again, there is this one moment of attempted humor, which is somehow even worse? With the gunman now arrested, the two men leave the store, and the coffee-drinking-man says to the coffee-and-tea-man, “Trouble finds you, Detective. That’s all I’m saying.” And all I’m saying is that this overly complicated, confusing, throwaway scene will be important in about five minutes (or one perceived hour). 

Sam Page being held at gun point in a convenience store. He is reaching into his coat pocket for his wallet.
Oh, hi! Hello!
Sam Page tackling the gunman in the aisles.
It is nice that you’ve joined us, Sam Page.
Sam Page's partner Ben (Malachi Weir) bending down to ask about his coffee.
Even if this scene with your partner is redonk-a-bonk and feels pasted in from another movie.

The next day, while Kathleen goes off to mold young minds with Hamlet, Grace stays home to make faces at her computer screen while she presumably murders some magical prose. (Or does the crossword puzzle.) But hark! What’s that she hears? A miter saw from next door! Instead of doing what people have done since the dawn of power saws—sigh, stuff earplugs in their ears, and slam all the windows—she leans out the window (which doesn’t have a screen? In D.C.? This is a very bad idea!) to chat with the hunky neighbor (Sam Page), who assures her he’s almost done cutting. She says something about how he should measure twice and he calls back something about only having to cut once. (This conversation is already wildly unrealistic and just not good at all. It’s like it was written using only second-rate greeting cards and inspirational posters.)  Determined to procrastinate the heck out of her day, Grace pops over to introduce herself and offer him a cup of coffee. (Probably a euphemism.) I felt like I had missed several scenes, but, nope, someone just thought this made sense. It turns out that Ed, who only drinks herbal tea, is a police detective on vacation after solving a huge cold case, and he is the same man who just had a wrestling match in the convenience store last night. Gasp. What. Are. The. Chances. 

A classroom of students in maroon uniforms looking at Kathleen. Shakespeare is written on the chalkboard behind them.
That young mind in the center back row Daniel Diemer who played Paul Munsky in The Half of It (a movie you should watch if you haven’t), and that’s mainly why I included this picture.
Grace framed in a window that is open with no screen.
But soft! What light through yonder window… Oh, no. That’s a different Shakespeare play. This is just Grace chatting up Ed about his power tool. And, if she really were in DC, inviting swarms of mosquitoes to come live with her.

He’s a homicide detective. She writes about pretend homicides. He’s read her books. She Googles him. There are sparks. Later that day, the two head out to a nice dinner where she presents him with a mental puzzle about a made up murder. Meanwhile, Kathleen gets real, real murdered in her own house. Major bummer for Kathleen.

A computer screen showing biographical information about Kathleen, including her address, which is 3390 Cordelia St., Washington, DC, 20033.
I guess Kathleen lives in a very secret part of Washington, DC that is not any of the quadrants. Does that just mean she really lives in Maryland, but tells people she lives in DC? Probably.
I’m pretty sure there’s a whole thing with the addresses in the show and references to King Lear, but I don’t care enough to go back and figure it out.

What’s most brazen about this movie is how they throw any verisimilitude out the window when Ed doesn’t have a conflict of interest in becoming the lead detective on Kathleen’s murder investigation when he’s ALSO clearly deeply interested in investigating Grace’s erogenous zones. And then! And then they have the audacity to have Grace STAY AT HIS HOUSE DURING THE INVESTIGATION because she just can’t stand the idea of staying at a hotel. Oh, sure. Fine. Whatever. Nothing matters anymore.

From this point forward, you can pretty much forget about anything making sense or following logic. Just throw up your hands, sit back, relax, and let yourself sink into the nonsensicalness of it all. This movie is going to throw so many red herrings at you that if you pickled them, you would have enough food to last all winter. At the same time, the murderer is so obvious that they might as well have a large bullseye painted in the middle of their forehead and a neon arrow floating above them. It’s a delicate balancing act, really, to have both these things happening simultaneously in one movie. I’d keep telling you about the plot, but it’s so lacking in dramatic tension that I’m afraid we both might doze off. 

Ed, Ben, and Grace in the very grey and glass filled police station.
This crack team is going to solve the case—by going through every suspect in the place, like a box of cheap tissues.

May I please tell you about some of the dialogue? Please. Because this is where I did almost injure myself snorting. My husband wandered through the room and asked if I was watching a comedy. Friends, I couldn’t answer because I was laughing too hard. At one point a man is speaking about another web-cam dominatrix and he says, “I mean, she’s quite special. We have a…We have a good rapport.” First of all, “quite special” makes me feel quite nauseated, and I can only hope that’s how the line was intended. But, a rapport? Is this web-cam relationship even a two-way street? Whatever. That’s irrelevant. The point is that NO ONE says that about sexual partner, even a virtual one.

A white man with reddish hair sitting in a police room while holding a glass of water.
This is the man who utters the line about having a good rapport and I don’t know whether to pity him or congratulate him for saying it with a straight face. I’ve tried to say it out loud ten times now and failed miserably.
Kathleen's ex-husband who also has red and looks kind of similar to the previous man.dish hair
This man, who is not the previous man in different clothing, is Kathleen’s very nasty ex-husband, but, wow, there is definitely a type there.

Another time, when Grace is trying to convince the police Captain that she should be allowed to work the case she says, “I have an instinct for motive. I mean, it’s why my books are so successful.” Hoo boy. I’m not even going to pull that apart. I do so want to tell all you about the part where Grace asks the Captain to let her do something incredibly dangerous, and the Captain is just like, Sure thing! However, I can’t give you details without spoilers. You may want to watch just for that moment, which is pure (unintended) comedy gold. Two of my favorite lines, though, were from Ed when he’s speaking to Grace, who he’s known for, like, a week? He tells her, “if anything ever happened to you I would lose my mind.” So romantic. Another time when things are getting very hot and heavy he says, “Grace, once isn’t going to be enough.” Yes, because so often human adults find that one time of having sex with someone they’re attracted to and like is more than enough to satisfy them. Wouldn’t she be so flattered to find that just once was enough for him?!? 

All that said, I can’t bring myself to tell you not to watch Brazen. It’s a singular experience to watch something this openly bad, and who am I to deny you that? As of this writing, Brazen is ranked number two on Netflix in the United States and has an IMDb score of 3.8, which, if you think about it, is quite an accomplishment. How many movies can make that same claim? However, if you do choose to watch it, you really need to open yourself up to it. Unashamedly, let yourself ride the waves of substandard plotting, woeful dialogue, regrettable acting, shoddy characters, and godawful ending. Brazenly embrace the mediocrity. 

Overall Rating on the Chronically Streaming Pain Scale:

4-Agony: Holy hell. Everything is awful. Is this for real? I can’t remember when anything was good. Give me all the drugs at once.

2 thoughts on “Review: BRAZEN (2022) is Unintentionally Hilarious

  1. OMG! Here I was on my faraway couch flailing around after binge watching all 169 episodes of Heartland, followed by an all night dessert of Baking Impossible. This morning, instead of sleeping I was wondering how much longer my dysfunctional relationship with Netflix could last. I actually contemplated making a clean break and trying the book app for a change. Now, instead I shall happily run off with Brazen and snorgle until I am snoring (whichever comes first).

    Liked by 1 person

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