review by Gregory Avery, 2 November
What exactly is
John Travolta protecting his family from in Domestic Disturbance?
After the opening half-hour, this becomes more and more unclear, and
the characters aren't the only ones in the dark. Some serious
fiddling appears to have been done with the film in order to create
some basis for concern, but the results are, to say the least, worse
Travolta plays Frank, a divorced
father who must decide if his twelve-year-old son Danny (Matt
O'Leary) is telling the truth when he says that his new stepfather,
Rick (Vince Vaughn), is a menace. Frank is shown as being willing to
go a long way towards bridging the gap, or any potential thereof,
between himself and Rick for Danny's sake. For his part, Rick seems
to be trying to put whatever was in his past behind him and make a
clean start, first with his marriage (to Frank's ex-wife, played by
the talented Teri Polo), then by becoming a model businessman in the
small community where they all live, even taking out a huge contract
with Frank's boat-building company (even though you're not entirely
too sure how Rick makes a living or where he gets his money from).
Then, along comes an old associate of Rick's, who starts hanging
about the place and making oblique references to something being
owed him. (In case we have any doubts as to his character, Steve
Buscemi has been cast in the part.)
Rick ends up going so far as to
dispose of his old crony altogether, tossing him into a brick kiln.
Danny sees the whole thing, but the police dismiss the boy's story
because the kid has continually gotten into trouble with local
authorities in the past, even before his mother married Rick, thus
marring Danny's credibility. Why, then, would Rick suddenly turn his
murderous attentions towards Danny and, later, Danny's father? Since
the police don't believe a murder was ever committed in the first
place, the obvious move would be to play-it-normal and be
inconspicuous. Instead, Rick starts torching buildings and chasing
after people with a crowbar.
Is Rick tainted by his past, or is
he just culpable? If he's got anything further to hide, we never
find out about it. After a methodical set-up, parts of the rest of
the film feel like they've been dropped, or yanked, from view.
There's a cigarette lighter that figures in the second part of the
story, but its significance is never explained. In one scene, Frank
strikes, and then apologizes to, a character whom we're supposed to
know by name but who hasn't been previously introduced into the
narrative. The movie loses its plausibility faster than sand running
through a sieve: by the time it's over, it's more like a phantom
limb, something in place of where a movie used to be.
Poor Vince Vaughn has never
entirely recovered from playing a rangy, country-western version of
Norman Bates in the 1998 version of Psycho. (It was an
interesting approach, but, still....) John Travolta, on the other
hand, looks like a million bucks: he may be our last real movie
star, but this picture, like the earlier Swordfish, is small
potatoes stuff, and he's coasting. Hopefully, we'll once again have
a chance to see him in something which will fully engage his
abilities as both an actor and a star.
John Travolta, Vince Vaughn, Teri Polo, Matt O'Leary and Steve
William S. Comanor
PG-13 - Parents Strongly Cautioned.
Some material may
be inappropriate for
children under 13..