John Sayles’ films offer no distinction between the personal and the political; whether tackling ageing veterans of the radical ’60s (‘Return of the Secaucus Seven’), the loaded ambiguities of small-town Tex-Mex life (‘Lone Star’) or the effects of Latin American guerilla violence (‘Men with Guns’), his characters’ social and historical contexts bear as heavily on them as their own emotional baggage and frequently unfulfilled aspirations. His sprawling, equivocally-titled multi-character social portraits – ‘City of Hope’, ‘Sunshine State’ and now ‘Silver City’ – aim to dissect communities whose festering secrets must be acknowledged before a future can be tentatively planned. If the sentiments are impeccably liberal and the implications genuinely disquieting, the results aren’t always wholly satisfying as films.‘Silver City’ starts with a neat hook: Colorado gubernatorial hopeful and puppet-dim Dubya-double Dickie Pilager (Chris Cooper) snags a corpse while shooting a lakeside campaign ad. Affably cynical hack-turned-gumshoe Danny (Danny Huston) is put on the case, his old-school investigation unearthing the distinctly contemporary concerns of vulnerable migrant labour and environmental plunder at the service of rampant corporate capitalism. In the film’s ostensible template, ‘Chinatown’, it was Noah Cross (played by Huston’s dad John) who wore a Stetson to hide his horns; here it’s Kris Kristofferson’s mustang-mounted robber baron, his iron eyes fixed on national parkland (‘a treasure chest waiting to be opened’).There are several other enjoyable cameos – notably Daryl Hannah as Dickie’s dope-smoking, longbow-toting estranged sister – but plenty of forgettable ones too. And despite the engagingly complex (if over-neat) plot, the film’s claims to suspense are undercut by its heavily conversational structure and Huston’s faintly gormless unflappability, which also hinders an inert romantic subplot. Cynical viewers might also find the conclusion somewhat optimistic – thanks to Danny’s unorthodox research methods, the writing is literally on the wall for the corporate pillagers – given the plausibly alarming thesis so potently proposed by the rest of the picture.