Some critics will always delight in taking pot-shots at hotshots, but praise can be just as damning. A sudden rush of it can unbalance the most auspicious talents: approbation goes to the head. Take any young Eighties talent - Sam Raimi, Susan Seidelman, Jean-Jacques Beineix - and you can be pretty sure that they followed a sizzler with a turkey. Some get a second chance - Spike Lee for instance, who is now respected despite School Daze, or Michael Lehmann, who's hoping his grunge comedy Airheads will dim the memory of Hudson Hawk. As for our own Hanif Kureishi, it'll take something meaty to finally slam the coffin lid on London Kills Me.

One of the saddest declines was that of Alex Cox (right), who carried the effervescence of his debut Repo Man to Sid and Nancy, a punk biopic built of humour and passion. It was the arrival of the dire Vermicelli Western Straight to Hell that marked a descending trajectory.

But Cox has a new film, Highway Patrolman, released on 19 August, and it deserves an audience. Roberto Sosa is excellent as Pedro, an idealistic patrolman whose initial honesty soon gives way to bribe-taking and violence. Writer Lorenzo O'Brien has buried grandiose nuggets in his little epic - a dash of Macbeth and Gilgamesh, a jot of Cormac McCarthy. And the film is in Spanish, which might have loosened Cox a little, for his direction is spare and derelict, like the Mexican landscape. The delirious fizz of Repo Man is gone; its underlying nihilism has deepened. Cradling a fellow patrolman murdered by thugs, Pedro howls: 'Where was God when they did this to you?'.

One thing's for sure: CHiPs it ain't.