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‘Game of Silence’ review: NBC's layered drama, with extra layers

Bre Blair and David Lyons star in NBC's

Bre Blair and David Lyons star in NBC's "Game of Silence." Credit: NBC / Bob Mahoney

WHEN | WHERE Previews Tuesday, April 12, at 10 p.m. before moving into its regular time slot on Thursdays at 10 p.m. on NBC


WHAT IT’S ABOUT Based on a hit Turkish series, “Suskunlar” — literally, game of silence — this is about four childhood friends who go into juvenile detention after an impulsive prank gone wrong. Twenty-five years later, they hook up in hometown Houston. Jackson Brooks (David Lyons) is a lawyer, while Gil Harris (Michael Raymond-James) and Shawn Cook (Larenz Tate) are small-time hoods. The fourth, Boots (Derek Phillips), one day spots someone who did terrible things to them in juvy. He takes his revenge. The cycle of vengeance begins. This adaptation comes from star producers Carol Mendelsohn (“CSI”) and David Hudgins (“Parenthood”).

MY SAY "Game of Silence" is about five childhood friends bent on avenging bad dudes who gave some of them a hard time at juvy. All of this you already know (see above). What you don't already know is that it's just the first layer of this onion.

 Here’s another: The hunted know they are being hunted and in turn hunt those hunting them. Then this: The former juvy warden is a creep and sadist, like the guy from “The Shawshank Redemption,” but is also now running for Congress (figures). One more layer: You don’t know exactly why this cycle of revenge is happening, but will find out in a series of reveals and flashbacks. That’s an onion within an onion.

As an ingredient for both hamburgers and TV series, onions are perfectly fine. But in TV, a few things still have to work while all these layers are peeled back. First, you have to buy in. Do you really believe the entire premise of the thing? Next, you have to care. Do these protagonists — now adults, trying to right old wrongs — engage you, or move you?

And finally, does any of this actually make sense? Get the first two right, then logic is almost irrelevant. Who cares! I’m in! (“24” spent nine seasons playing that card.) But get ’em wrong, and logic is all you have left.

In fact, “Game of Silence” — earnest, dense and clearly passionate about the story it wants to tell — gets all three wrong. The buy-in is instantly scuttled by the prison premise, which might have worked in “Midnight Express” (or on Turkish TV) but not quite here. Meanwhile, the core characters aren’t particularly appealing or interesting either. That leaves poor lonely logic, which is shredded by a single question: Why wait 25 years to get revenge?

Suddenly, this onion turns into an anchor — to be tossed overboard.

BOTTOM LINE A convoluted story that doesn’t seem all that worthwhile to unravel, or peel — or watch.

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