USA Network proves a gangsta telepic doesn’t have to rely on guns and ammo to bring a slice of life to the small screen. “Silent Witness: What a Child Saw” presents riveting acting by up-and-coming actors that is much more gripping than shoot-’em-up violence.
In post-riot L.A., Darryl (Amir Jamal Williams) and Sylvester Crawford (Richard Chevolleau) are two brothers headed in different directions: Youngster Darryl banks on books to keep him out of gangs, but older brother Sylvester is another story.
He gets caught up with two Clockwork Orange types, T-Bear (Richard Yearwood) and Puppet (Nderhu Roberts). Sylvester fails T-Bear’s command to go into a liquor store and get beer. Feeling dissed, T-Bear orders him back in, to get the beer by any means necessary.
When the six-pack is stolen, the Korean store owner draws his gun and is met with return fire by T-Bear and Puppet. Shot in the fray is a just-married Korean couple who were in the store visiting the store owners.
While Sylvester has shot nobody, he’s made the fall guy and brother Darryl, who witnessed the entire crime, becomes literally caught in the crossfire between right and wrong.
This supposedly open-and-shut case is given to Korean-American prosecutor Carol Lee-Rembrant (Mia Korf), who smells something fishy and starts investigating.
The boys’ dad (Bill Nunn) is defensive when the prosecutor comes around one day asking questions. While he admits Sylvester has “slipped through my fingers, ” he’s protective of Darryl, who is not willing to say anything.
Williams, Roberts and Yearwood turn in solid perfs, with director Bruce Pittman strongly drawing out the young actors, especially Williams.
Script by Paris Qualles is sentimental when it turns away from the gang and goes back to the family scenes, never exploring the family dysfunctions that contribute to the gang mentality; however, it has many strengths and is not exploitative.
“Silent Witness” keeps the depiction of violence to what is necessary to accurately portray America’s mean streets. And it throws the viewer into the shoes of a young boy, fearing the truth as well as evil.