Directed by Mike Nichols, starring Jude Law, Clive Owen, Natalie Portman and Julia Roberts.

"A good fight," muses Clive Owen's character Larry, is "never clean". And Mike Nichols' take on (screenwriter) Patrick Marber's play inflicts its share of cheap shots and sucker punches as the four participants in this 'love rectangle' fall into and out of each other's lives.

Dan (Law) is the obituary writer and aspiring novelist who falls head-over-heels for American stripper Alice (Portman) on a London street. Live-in bliss ends, however, when the soon-to-be-published Dan later meets Anna (Roberts), the photographer who's taking the promo shot for his book. She then meets surgeon Larry (Owen) but can't forget Dan and so more complications and combinations ensue...

The Golden Globes Clive Owen and Natalie Portman received for their work in 'Closer' are no less than they deserve because they're the ones who make the film worth seeing - even when their co-stars leave something to be desired.

The main problem here is that the transition of Marber's play from screen to stage isn't as smooth as it should be, with the dynamic often stop-start and some lines sounding clunky or delivered like a toolbox falling on a tiled floor.

Even with that handicap however, there's no excusing Jude Law, whose performance suggests he learned the script with two heavies standing over him with rubber hoses.

As for Roberts, she doesn't get enough to work with and, as a result, her character proves to be the least developed of the four - her scenes involving Law devoid of the sparks that fly when Owen and Portman are onscreen.

You'll leave the cinema feeling colder than before you went in, wondering do you actually know any people who behave like the people in 'Closer' - and then if you'd like to. No classic, but destined to be discussed at dinner parties for some Saturday nights to come.

Harry Guerin