Rated PG-13 - Running Time: 1:43 - Released 11/2/01

Domestic Disturbance is one of those movies that, while well-acted and reasonably thrilling, rests on a premise that stretches the very limits of credulity. Directed by Harold Becker (Mercury Rising), the blandly titled film pits nice guy John Travolta against former Psycho Vince Vaughn in a far-fetched story of familial deceit by Lewis Colick, William S. Comanor, and Gary Drucker. If the events weren't so laughably unbelievable, they would be downright terrifying.

Travolta plays Frank Morrison, a divorced boat builder from the coastal town of Southport, Maryland, whose 12-year-old son Danny (Matthew O'Leary) has developed emotional problems after his parents' breakup. Although he remains close to his dad, Danny has become increasingly distant toward his mother, Susan (Teri Polo), especially since she annouced plans to marry her new boyfriend, Rick Barnes (Vaughn), a wealthy stock tycoon who just moved to the community a few years ago. As a result, Danny has gotten into trouble several times with the police, frequently runs away from home, and has developed a reputation for lying. Through some good-natured prodding from his dad, however, Danny begins to warm up to the new man in his mother's life. But on the day of Rick and Susan's wedding, a stranger (Steve Buscemi) appears, causing Rick to be visibly distracted.

While the incident is soon forgotten by the wedding guests, we are privy to the truth: the stranger is an ex-con named Ray Coleman, who served time with Rick for racketeering years ago. Ever since Rick cut a deal for a shorter sentence and left Ray to languish in prison, Ray has been planning to track him down and either collect his cut of the money or get revenge. But things go from bad to worse when Danny secretly witnesses Rick murdering Ray and runs to his dad for help. The police find no evidence, and everyone thinks he's simply lying again. Everyone except Frank, that is.

John Travolta does some nice, credible work in this film; I always like him better as the regular guy than the lunatic killer madman. Vaughn, returning to Norman Bates mode, is suitably menacing as Rick. O'Leary and Polo are more than adequate in their supporting roles, and Buscemi (who can currently be heard playing a similar role in Monsters, Inc.), is as creepy as ever. But the story is so full of plot holes and lapses of credibility, the script undermines the good work of its players. From the jerky way Rick treats Danny, a boy he's supposed to be trying to "bond" with, to the way he disposes of the body, to his openly threatening behavior after the truth is discovered, to the almost comical final struggle, it is hard to maintain the willing suspension of disbelief. The final reel includes many stock thriller elements, like the ol' "killer rising from the dead" staple, and achieves the goal of keeping us on the edge of our seats, but only in a, ahem, half-assed way. Insert rimshot here. **½

Copyright 2001 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

Current | Archives | Oscars | About | E-Mail