Movie Review: BRAZEN (2022): A mediocre romance with a mysterious crime rushes to a forced end
Cheeky (2022) film criticism, a film made by Monika Mitchell, and featuring Alyssa Milano, Sam Page, Malachi Spillway, Emilie Ullerup, Matthew Finlan, Alison Araya, Colleen Wheeler, David Lewis, Daniel Diemer, Barry Levy, Lost Rooms, Aaron Paul Stewart, Jack Armstrong, Nikki Bryce, and Mitra Suri.
Cheeky follows the standard popular trope of romance author Nora Roberts, whose novel is based on the film. Had the filmmakers taken the time to invest in some of the suspense his works are known for, it might have been more effervescent. Instead, he jumps and leaps to an ill-conceived finish.
Some of Ms Roberts’ most vocal devotees have complimented her writing style in glowing terms as “strong”. After reading several of his “In Death” installments under his JD Robb alias, this reviewer is inclined to agree. His prose is lively and engaging, and his stories have a hard-hitting, kinetic style that drives the most unlikely aspects of plots out of mind.
By comparison, this energy is the only characteristic that the novel and the film share, albeit disconcertingly. The scenes bounce off with such abrupt force that the effect is a bit jarring and the narrative seems sordid. The patchwork editing distracts from the real kick of good escapist fiction. Even the brief scenes of beautiful dominatrixes on a sex fantasy website seem disjointed and don’t add much heat to the plot.
The actors do quite well with the latitude their roles allow. Alyssa Milano brings depth whenever she can to the character of Grace, a famous crime novelist who visits her sister, Kathleen (Emilie Ullerup). They don’t seem to share much brotherly affection, but Grace’s depression over Kathleen’s death has remarkable emotional power.
On the other hand, when she strikes up a romance with Kathleen’s neighbor, police detective Ed (Sam Page), there is no real passion, only occasional affection mixed with banter, like friends with advantages. But at the same time, their tender scenes bear fruit. Although there are no fireworks, the intimacy they present hits home; the two look best when kissing. The few sparks between them don’t fly until they agree. Appropriate to the genre, the road becomes difficult as they negotiate compromises when they question traditional gender roles. (Grace wants equality and respect on her own terms; Ed wants to protect her, both as a lover and a cop.)
One of the film’s strengths is the feminist subtext in which women must embrace solidarity to achieve empowerment, a warning message of trust. This becomes clear when Grace confronts Police Captain Rivera (Alison Araya). This scene is crucial, despite its poor construction and questionable police procedure. Rivera initially dismisses Grace, but seconds later grants her full access to the file as a “consultant,” in response to Grace’s assertion of expertise of the “hunch” she has. developed as an author of detective novels. Conversely, consider Kathleen’s lack of trust in Grace, leading to her ultimate demise along with several of her carnal cohorts in a domino effect.
On the other hand, the men in this film (with the exception of Ed) are stereotyped according to their functions, controlling and/or condescending, more or less kept at a distance, as if they were exposed: Ex-husband and kid wealthy “connected” Jonathan (David Lewis) has all the marbles and keeps Kathleen on the brink of poverty; later, as a widower, he dismisses Grace’s suspicions. Ed Ben’s partner (Malachi Weir) is a paragon of passive aggression, alternately smug, disapproving, or dismissive. Paul Morgan (Barry Levy) controls his wrestling star son so tightly that he practically invites his son’s every word.
Senator Baxter (Colleen Wheeler) is an interesting hybrid. She may well represent the concept of traditional women’s liberation taken to the extreme. Obviously a single mother, she reflects the underworld of male-dominated politics. As a result, she’s a fish out of water and imperious with everyone, including her son, Jerald (Matthew Finlan), whom she dotes on with fierce, icy formality.
The confrontation between Grace and Jerald, for the most part, is particularly disappointing. Grace’s baiting on Jared feels more like therapy than confrontation, and Jared’s depression…sperm-the confession looks (and sounds) like a rich kid style crisis. The inevitable knock-down-drag-out that follows, however, overseen by stunt coordinator Lauro Chartrand, is top-notch and provides a refreshing moment of suspense.
Although it certainly has its moments, in the long run Cheeky suffers from too much haste. As a result, the deeper themes have slipped through the cracks and, in the romance movie paradigm, they’re only mediocre.
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