Dir: Gabriele Salvatores. Italy/Spain. 2002. 114mins.

Amnesia is the second 'little' film to be fired off by Gabriele Salvatores while he tries to raise the funds to make an adaptation of Amitav Ghosh's novel The Calcutta Chromosome. Teeth (Denti, 2000) was a curious tale of precarious dental and mental health which failed critically and commercially in its pitch for postmodern grand guignol. Amnesia sees Salvatores going back to the dark-veined expatriate comedy of Puerto Escondido (1993), with Ibiza replacing Mexico as the place of exile for a bunch of Italian movers and scrapers.

But if Puerto Escondido rambled, Amnesia loses the plot altogether. There are times when the film's sense of humour dips to the level of those crude Italians comedies that make piles of money each Christmas. And a raft of style tricks (split screen, jump-cuts, running the story back from another point of view) and heavy dramatic interludes will only serve to alienate the American Pie brigade without winning over the American Beauty crew. Though distributor-backer Medusa is likely to give the film a healthy launch on home ground, Amnesia lacks the legs for a serious run. Abroad, the co-production territory of Spain looks like the only guaranteed market.

Salvatores regulars Diego Abatantuono and Sergio Rubini once again play the central characters. Abatantuono is Sandro, a forty-something medallion man who lives on Ibiza and makes porn films. His hopelessly untogether friend Angelino (Rubino) runs a beach bar - a business which fails to bring him the money he needs to set up a family with his Spanish girlfriend. On the first of the three days covered by the story, the lives of the two friends are turned upside-down: Sandro's when his seventeen-year-old daughter Luce comes to visit, Angelino's when fate delivers him a briefcase with four kilos of cocaine.

Sandro has hardly seen his daughter since she was tiny, and is desperate to hide his grubby trade from her. Angelino is equally keen to conceal his attempts to sell the nose powder from his girlfriend, and to avoid getting stitched up by its rightful, or wrongful, owners. An already contorted plot is further twisted by a host of supports: a local police chief and his rebellious, drug-pushing teenage son; an English crook (McNiece); while Alessandra Martines struggles gamely with a pointless cameo role as a local restaurant owner.

Gabriele Salvatores was obviously struck by Almodovar's All About My Mother. He even casts Antonia San Juan in a carbon copy of the transvestite with-a-heart-of-gold role she played in that film. But there are few directors who can pull off leaps of tone between farce and tragedy, and Salvatores is not one of them. Juango Puigcorbe and promising newcomer Ruben Ochandiano bring an intensity to the father-son relationship which is entirely lacking from the limp father-daughter rapport between Abatantuono and Martina Stella, an actress whose debut in Gabriele Muccino's Italian domestic box office hit The Last Kiss was greeted with enormous hype. And some of the colour parts - notably the gay assistant of the porn director - are just plain embarrassing.

Prod co: Colorado Film
Co-prod: Alquimia Cinema
Dist (Italy): Medusa:
Prod: Maurizio Totti
Scr: Andrea Garello, Gabriele Salvatores
Cinematography: Italo Petriccione
Prod des: Rita Rabassini
Ed: Massimo Fiocchi
Main cast: Diego Abatantuono, Sergio Rubini, Martina Stella, Antonia San Juan, Alessandra Martines, Juango Puigcorbe, Ruben Ochandiano, Ian McNeice.