Steven Soderbergh's Traffic, the $50m theatrical re-working of the Channel 4 mini-series on the international drug trade, was named best picture on Wednesday by the New York Film Critics Circle after nearly five hours of deliberation at Manhattan's Sardi's Restaurant.

Soderbergh himself was named the year's best director for both Traffic and Erin Brockovich, while Benicio Del Toro won the best supporting actor award for Traffic, which was jointly financed by USA Films and foreign sales agent Initial Entertainment Group.

Other major winners included both Tom Hanks, who was named best actor by New York's critics for his largely solitary performance in Robert Zemeckis' Cast Away, and Laura Linney who was named best actress for You Can Count On Me.

The joint winner of the Grand Jury Prize at this year'sSundance Film Festival, You Can Count On Mealso won the best screenplay honour for Kenneth Lonergan, who also directed.

Marcia Gay Harden was named best supporting actress for Pollock and Peter Pau won for best cinematography for his work on Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

But Crouching Tigerfailed to win the best foreign film prize, which went instead to Edward Yang'sYi Yi, the Taiwanese film also known in English as A One And A Two.

The only repeats from last week's National Board Of Review were Soderbergh for best director, The Life And Times Of Hank Greenberg, which was named best non-fiction film, and Chicken Run which was named best animated film.

In addition, David Gordon Green's George Washington was named best first film.

Jules Dassin won a special award as director of Rififfi, with Rialto Pictures also cited for re-releasing the film. And The Shooting Gallery, the New York based production/distribution company won a special award for its "ingenious distribution pattern as well as their choice of films."

TSG, under distribution chief Eamonn Bowles, enjoyed particular success this year with its release of Croupier. It also distributed two other critically-lauded foreign language films: A Time For Drunken Horses from Iran and Human Resources from France (and was also a co-producer, alongside Hart Sharp Entertainment, of You Can Count On Me).

The named recipients will receive their awards at the Circle's annual dinner banquet to be held on Jan 14 at the World Trade Center. The Circle has 35 members and is the oldest group of film reviewers of its kind having been formed in 1935.