Birthday Girl - R

Best for: Mature adults

What it's about: John Buckingham (Ben Chaplin), a lonely bank clerk bachelor in the suburbs of London, tries to find the woman of his dreams through a Russian mail-order Web site. Nadia (Nicole Kidman) turns out to be a chain-smoker who can't speak a word of English - nothing like the woman represented on the Web site. John tries to explain to Nadia that things won't work out between them. She responds by engaging in kinky sex with him, which obviously pleases him and persuades him to allow her to stay.

On the night of Nadia's birthday, her Russian cousin Yuri ( Mathieu Kassovitz) abruptly appears at John's home with his friend Alexei (Vincent Cassel), and the two rude guests invite themselves to stay for a while. At first Yuri acts as a translator between John and Nadia, but John soon becomes uncomfortable with them and asks them to leave. The men then become violent, threatening to harm Nadia unless John agrees to rob his own bank. John, unable to communicate with Nadia, agrees, and the events that follow change John's life forever.

The good: The story begins with an interesting premise, but since we never get to know Nadia, it's hard to really care when things begin to happen to her. Chaplin does a good job with what he's given, while Kidman once again creates a different look. She speaks Russian with such ease you would think it's her second language.

Kidman has become the Meryl Streep of her generation, turning in amazing performances of, interestingly, mostly dark or disturbed women. Kassovitz and Cassel are convincing and creepy as the conniving Russian scam artists who prey on unsuspecting males.

Nevertheless, the only good that comes out of this movie is a healthy warning for men to stay away from bondage porn movies and Web-ordered brides.

The not-so-good: The main problem with this story turns out to be the very ingredient that sets up the plot. Namely, that a man would bring a woman into his home to become his bride (they are never married) when he can't communicate with her. The story tries to build a relationship between two characters whose only connection is their interest in kinky sex.

We feel sorry for John as the tables start to turn on him, but we couldn't care less about Nadia. That's where the story fails. Casting a major star as an unlikable supporting character offsets any final impact from the story and ruins the movie.

Although John is forced to rob his own bank for ransom money (which is understood and condoned), we never see remorse from him or any inclination to return the money, turn himself in or explain to the authorities what happened. The ending is a nice "Hollywood ending" but is unrealistic and irresponsible.

Lastly, the film has an abundance of subtitles, so if you don't like to read, you won't like this movie.

Offensive language and behavior: Lots of crude language and mild profanity (some in Russian and translated into English subtitles) as well as several "F"-words and a few profanities. We hear Nadia vomiting and the see the result. Several characters drink excessively.

Sexual situations: Nadia pushes herself on John sexually (reaching into his pants, climbing on top of him). Sex is implied but not explicitly shown. Rear nudity is shown more than once. Some of the sex involves things Nadia learned from porn magazines and videotapes she discovers in John's home. Several scenes show all characters in their underwear.

Violence: One of the houseguests pulls a knife on John and threatens Nadia. Several fistfights take place between characters. Nadia is slapped in the face, tied to a chair and pushed around by Alexei. John is tied to a hotel room toilet.

Parental advisory: Needless to say, this isn't an appropriate movie for teenagers to see even if they are Kidman fans.

Bottom line: Many adults may be offended by the harsh scenes of physical abuse, but most will be disappointed with the story, which never delivers.