Early in “Brazen,” a psychological thriller on Netflix, the crime novelist Grace Miller (Alyssa Milano) insists that her books, which feature grisly femicide, aren’t trashy, but illuminative. “They’re about the exploitation of women, and misogyny, and the patriarchy,” she declares.
The movie surrounding her has less lofty ambitions. Predictable and all-American, “Brazen” is the murder mystery version of a Hallmark Christmas romance. Indeed, the movie is based on a grocery store paperback by the prolific author Nora Roberts, and its director, Monika Mitchell, counts several made-for-TV holiday movies among her credits. It’s a match made in algorithm heaven.
The story begins with the big-city Grace traveling to the suburbs to help her sister, Kathleen (Emilie Ullerup), fight a custody battle. But when the reunion is cut short by a grisly murder, the plot pivots. Grieving and frightened, Grace vows to apply her writerly instincts to track down the killer, with some help from the hunky homicide detective Ed (Sam Page) who happens to live next door.
Chock-full of tropes and status quo gender dynamics — “if anything ever happened to you, I would lose my mind,” Ed cries when Grace volunteers for a risky police gambit — “Brazen” occasionally scratches the same itch as does a cop procedural, or a Lifetime drama so formulaic you foresee every beat. It is perhaps fitting, then, that the film is rarely suspenseful; I, for one, guessed the killer from the opening scenes, and I haven’t written even a single mystery novel.
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 34 minutes. Watch on Netflix.