LA, Year Zero: 30 December 1999. Riot police are on the streets. The angry, poor, disenfranchised - the blacks - are ready to tear down the walls of the city. Yet Lenny Nero fiddles while LA burns. A sleazeball in an Armani suit, Lenny's dealing illicit 'playback clips', raw human experience recorded direct from the cerebral cortex. Bigelow's spectacular millennial maelstrom has divided critics, and apparently repelled audiences. Written by James Cameron and Jay Cocks, this is tech-noir, action movie and love story rolled into one. It also pursues a sophisticated treatise on the nature of voyeurism, the psychic dangers of vicarious entertainment and cinema itself. A sequence in which Nero watches a snuff clip of rape and murder has excited accusations of exploitation and hypocrisy. It's certainly hard to stomach, but then shouldn't it be? The impeccable moral centre is to be found in Bassett's karate-chopping single mother 'Mace', who rescues Lenny from his own faithless stupor. Nero isn't irredeemable, either: Fiennes makes him a persuasively seedy knight errant. In fact, despite its own barely suppressed despair, the film exhibits markedly progressive leanings. Flawed, but often brilliant, provocative film-making.