Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: John Travolta, Vince Vaughn, Teri Polo, Matt O’Leary, Steve Buscemi
Director: Harold Becker
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround, French Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Paramount
Features: See Review
Length: 89 Minutes
Release Date: April 16, 2002

“My son is living with you in your house, and I have absolutely no idea what kind of man you really are. And honestly, that scares the hell out of me.”

Film ***

I was completely surprised by how much Domestic Disturbance thrilled and entertained me, considering the trailer I saw repeatedly prior to the movie contained a lot of stuff that apparently, didn’t make it into the final cut. My guess is that the makers and the studio wanted to aim the movie, involving a young boy witnessing his new stepfather commit murder, at a younger audience in addition to its target. So I assume a lot of scenes were removed and certain profane words were altered in order to garner the movie a PG-13 rating. I usually wince at this notion. I’m the kind of filmgoer who generally thinks one should go all the way for thrills, especially in the realm of action and suspense movies. However, Domestic Disturbance manages to hold momentum and deliver a much nice package of thrills and chills. Even though the story is not necessarily unpredictable, the execution is well done and the lead actors, which in this case are no less than John Travolta and Vince Vaughn, do a more than serviceable job in making their performances convincing.

Travolta plays Frank Morrison, a small town boat builder who loves his job, even though business is not in the best shape. Frank has a strong bond with his son, Danny (Matt O’Leary), who has a problem with conveying the truth. Frank’s ex wife, Susan (Teri Polo), is about to get re-married to slick business investor Rick Barnes (Vaughn), something that Danny has not yet been able to accept, though Frank advises him to give Rick a chance. The wedding goes smoothly, at least until Rick spots a shady old business associate of his named Ray (Steve Buscemi), a suspicious looking character to Frank, making him a bit suspicious of Rick, too.

All is soon forgotten, though, as Danny tries adjusting to life with a new man in the house. When he discovers that his mom is pregnant by Rick, it infuriates him deeply and he runs away, most likely to his dad’s house. Later that night, while hiding in the back of Rick’s jeep, Danny witnesses his stepfather kill a man right in front of his eyes, in addition to seeing the body pushed into an incinerator. After barely escaping without Rick noticing, Danny tells his dad about what he just saw. With the police unable to detect any evidence whatsoever, it leaves everybody pretty unwilling to believe Danny’s story, even Frank, who has always find Danny to be as truthful as they come.

What Domestic Disturbance does a good job of is lightening up moments of tension as Rick consistently blackmails Danny, who he indeed knows saw what he did, as Frank comes to believe his son’s story, advising his ex to keep him away from a suspected murderer. The movie also concludes with a good jolt of a standoff between the two fathers. Travolta is thoroughly convincing as the loving dad, and Vince Vaughn offers a neat revelation. Vaughn, whose proved his genius in comedies such as Swingers and Made, shows just how creepy he can be in the role of the deadly manipulator standing between Travolta’s character and the son he loves more than anything.

Although I think the filmmakers should have gone for the gold with adding the many scenes that were cut from the preview, Domestic Disturbance remains a stellar thrill a minute potboiler with sharp execution and performances.

Video ***1/2

This is a purely pleasant anamorphic offering from Paramount, who rarely ever falter in the look of their discs. The picture quality is for the most part, sharp, clean, and consistently clear. The only flawed spots in the presentation come at the latter part of the movie, with a few darkly lit areas coming off a bit softer than they should. But other than that, this is more than acceptable video job.

Audio ****

Paramount enhances the jolts of this suspense thriller to an even greater extent with this glorious and lively 5.1 audio presentation. Superbly capturing everything from dialogue, to background sounds, to suspenseful moments, including the stunning sound of the musical score to the film, this is one audio job that fits in with some of the studio’s best sounding discs to date.

Features **1/2

This disc isn’t deprived of any certain extras, but with Paramount on a roll with their Collector’s Editions, I wished they would’ve done the same with this release. Included is a feature commentary with director Harold Becker, some deleted scenes with optional director commentary, storyboards, and a trailer.


Domestic Disturbance delivers promised suspenseful thrills with good execution and acting. Fans of Travolta and Vaughn, for which I truly am, should definitely take notice of this charged up thriller.