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The twisty ‘Full Circle’ goes around but doesn’t completely come around

<i>HBO</i><br/>Reuniting director Steven Soderbergh and Ed Solomon
Reuniting director Steven Soderbergh and Ed Solomon

Review by Brian Lowry, CNN

(CNN) — Reuniting director Steven Soderbergh and Ed Solomon (the writer of “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” and “Men in Black”), “Full Circle” wages a battle between being twisty and feeling convoluted, finally coming out on the short end. An impressive cast makes this HBO limited series reasonably watchable, but in this case, what goes around doesn’t completely come around.

The concept is certainly ambitious in a way that recalls Soderbergh’s 2000 film “Traffic,” as the six-episode series unfolds on multiple fronts, with the source of those connections only gradually coming into focus. There’s such an abundance of side plots, though, that it’s challenging keeping track of who means what to whom, and few of the characters as drawn prove compelling enough to merit the mental gymnastics to do so.

Set in New York, the central event involves the kidnapping of a teenage boy, causing the requisite concern from his parents (Claire Danes, Timothy Olyphant), and drawing the suspicions of a wary investigator (Zazie Beetz) who correctly concludes that there’s far more to this story than meets the eye.

Indeed, what motivated the crime, and the unintended victim, reaches back into secrets from the past that relate to both parents and their well-connected families. At the same time, there are issues surrounding the kidnappers, who have roots in Guyana, where a history of imperialism ties into the plot, just under a more modern guise.

In addition to the aforementioned players, the rather gaudy cast – no doubt attracted at least in part by the chance to work with Soderbergh, who has efficiently moved between movies and TV – includes Jharrel Jerome (pulling streaming double duty currently in “I’m a Virgo”), CCH Pounder and Dennis Quaid as the boy’s grandfather.

Still, this third collaboration between Soderbergh and Solomon (following the movie “No Sudden Move” and series “Mosaic”) might be the most difficult to penetrate yet, bringing depth and background to a wide assortment of characters in a juggling act intended to upend what the audience might assume about heroes and villains. Unfortunately, it all comes together a little late, and in less than wholly satisfying fashion, over the final two chapters.

Max will drop a pair of episodes each week, presenting a somewhat truncated commitment to seeing where the mystery leads for those intrigued at the outset. Yet it’s possible to admire “Full Circle” for its intricacy and nuance while concluding, once the arc has been finished, that where its divergent points lead ultimately wasn’t worth the ride.

“Full Circle” premieres July 13 on Max, which, like CNN, is a unit of Warner Bros. Discovery.

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

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