Directed by Spike Lee starring Edward Norton, Rosario Dawson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Anna Paquin, Barry Pepper and Brian Cox.

Tomorrow is the start of the rest of Monty Brogan's (Norton) life. Today he has to say goodbye to girlfriend Naturelle (Dawson), father James (Cox), friends Jacob and Francis (Hoffman and Pepper) and deal with the fact that in the morning he's going to prison for seven years for drug dealing. A night out is planned but while everyone is wondering what Monty is going through, he's got a few questions of his own that need answering. Did Naturelle set him up? Will his alcoholic Dad be ok? Will Jacob and Francis do what he asks of them? And just where did it all go wrong?

Some fine supporting performances and powerful scenes (in particular a diatribe by Norton's Brogan about people in New York) but this is a disappointment from Lee. And the main problem is Norton - or rather, his character. Monty Brogan must be the nicest drug dealer to ever face a seven-year stretch. We get his goodwill credentials established at the start when he rescues a beaten dog and later we find out he started peddling dope to help his father out of gambling debts. Why he kept doing it is presumably a question he'll ask himself for the next 2,555 days but that we don't get an answer to.

There's no sense that Brogan became at a success at what he did through power, fear or cunning - just the cynical audience reaction that he probably ended up with junkie clients because he was nicer to them than anyone else. Perhaps there is more depth to him in David Benioff's source novel - which the author also adapted - but here Norton has to do his best with a character who is as shallow as the life he's about to say goodbye to.

The film works far better when it spreads out beyond Brogan to the peoplesurrounding him. You're never sure until the close whether Dawson's Naturelle was coming straight from the heart or going right for the wallet while Hoffman, Pepper and Cox all work well in depicting men with stunted emotions and relationships. Hoffman's character is obsessed with one of his teenage students (Paquin), Pepper's is so vain that he can't bear to spend more time on anyone than himself and Cox's boozed himself through his wife's death. When these characters interact - in particular the Hoffman/Paquin subplot – the film has a level of interest, which Monty's countdown lacks.

The theme of things coming to an end is mirrored in the film's time frame: post 11 September. Lee's opening credit tribute to the Twin Towers is echoed in Francis' refusal to move from his near Ground Zero apartment and the feeling that the city, like the rest of the characters, is facing into the future as best it can. But Benioff's book was written before the attacks, and as powerful as the apartment scene is, there's a choice to be made between admiring Lee for his decision or feeling that there's not enough drama in his film to warrant an intersection with real-life tragedy. The fact that by the close you're not too worried whether Brogan flees or faces what he's got himself into suggests many will swing towards the latter.

Harry Guerin