Directed by Harold Becker, starring John Travolta, Vince Vaughn, Teri Polo, Steve Buscemi and Matt O'Leary.

Given that director Harold Becker brought Al Pacino back into the limelight with 'Sea of Love', turned Nicole Kidman into a baddie for 'Malice' and introduced James Woods to a wider audience as the cop killer in 'The Onion Field', it seemed reasonable to expect a decent Hollywood thriller out of his latest offering. Don't bet on it.

Travolta plays Frank Morrison, a divorcee who must get used to the fact that ex-wife Susan (Polo) is moving on and marrying hotshot entrepreneur Rick Barnes (Vaughn). But if Frank has a hard time accepting that people change, it's nothing to what his teenage son Danny (O'Leary) is going through, railing against the proposed union and finding himself down at the police station every other day.

Patching things up for the wedding, Danny makes an effort for his mother's sake but finds that his stepdad's mood goes south with the arrival of old pal Ray (Buscemi) in town. It's not long before Rick is throwing a baseball too hard, giving Danny evil stares and generally acting like the type of bad guy who makes a living from made-for-TV movies. But when Danny witnesses Rick murder Ray in a bid to keep his former life secret, the kid has all the evidence he needs to prove he's no Mr Nice Guy. Trouble is, who's going to believe him?

Dour, hamfisted and predictable – and that's just the ending – 'Domestic Disturbance' finds Becker taking the most linear of scripts and directing it in a straight line for 90 minutes. It's thriller without thrills, a family story without emotional impact and ultimately a film without a point. Despite numerous chances to take the plot in smarter directions (e.g. Vaughn getting his claws into Travolta because his business is on the skids, playing Travolta's girlfriend off against his ex-wife) Becker seems in a rush to get to the end credits as soon as possible and the results have as much excitement as an episode of 'Family Ties'.

Think of Travolta's great nasty turn as the bad dad in 'Face/Off' and Vaughn's teeth and trousers masterclass in 'Swingers', and you realise either of them could have played the role of Rick and had the other cowering in his wake. Instead Travolta wears a look of hurt for the entire film (you're never really sure whether it's because his son is in danger or the script is so bad) while Vaughn's idea of evil stretches to leaning in doorways at night and driving a black station wagon at five miles an hour during the day.

Buscemi is only in the film for ten minutes but he's the best thing in it, his edgy lowlife Ray heaping extra shame on the performances of the auto-pilot male leads. Even youngster O'Leary shows them both up, prompting pass the time fantasies of himself and Buscemi concocting a murder plot to get rid of Vaughn's character without ever having to trouble Travolta at all. But that's the plot of another film – and a far better one than this sorry mess.

Harry Guerin