Written by James Kearns
Directed by Nick Cassavetes

Running Time: 1:54

Rated PG-13
for violence, language and intense thematic elements.

Denzel Washington
as John Q. Archibald

Robert Duvall
as Grimes

Kimberly Elise
as Denise Archibald

Daniel E. Smith
as Mike Archibald

Eddie Griffin
as Lester

Shawn Hatosy
as Mitch

Anne Heche
as Rebecca Payne

Ray Liotta
as Monroe

James Woods
as Dr. Turner

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Denzel Washington
Denzel Washington

Denzel Washington helps carry John Q from being a run-of-the-mill man against the world film, into a good man against the world film.

Washington plays John Q. a blue collar worker whose son is in need of a heart transplant. However when he meets with the head of the hospital (Anne Heche), he is told his insurance doesn't cover this type of procedure. He is then told by his boss that the full medical coverage he once thought he had, now doesn't cover nearly as much as he was initially promised. He is then sent on a wild goose chase trying to find more insurance, raise money in the community, and anything else he can do to come up with the $75,000 down payment the hospital requires to just put his son on the list for a heart. But even as he struggles to do that, the hospital says they're going to release his son, and basically let him die. John snaps, and ends up taking the leading cardiac surgeon (James Woods) hostage, along with a bunch of people in the emergency room. His only demand is to have his son put on the list for a heart transplant. Suddenly he is the cause-celeb for the moment, with camera crews and hundreds of people cheering for him outside the hospital. The only questions are will his son get the heart he needs to survive, and if so, whose heart will he get

This sort of man against the world film has been done over and over again. Sometimes it's battling lawyers, sometimes the police, and sometimes the medical establishment. This time it's against a hospital and to a lesser degree it seems, insurance companies. John didn't go hold his insurance company hostage, or his boss for reducing his insurance coverage without telling him, he went after one physician and then the hospital. Whether or not you believe what he did was right isn't really the point, since this is a movie. And who knows what you would do if it was your son laying there dying, and his fate was left in the hands of basically one person.

As with almost all of his films, Denzel Washington takes a story that could have been cheesy and overly dramatic, and makes it real. I've said it before and I'll say it again, he is easily the best actor working today. Even in hokey films he manages to take his role and put it on a higher level than the story. John Q is no different. Imagine a Ben Affleck or Harrison Ford playing this role. I can't because neither of them captures different characters in the way Washington does. As much as I admire Ford, and as much as I am tired of Affleck, they both basically play the same person in every film, sometimes amped up for action, sometimes laid back for comedy, but it's still the Ben Affleck and Harrison Ford. To me, Denzel does a better job of becoming the character and you soon forget you're watching Denzel, you're actually seeing a guy named John Q. fighting for his son's life.

The rest of the cast was good if sometimes bland. Anne Heche, who I've never liked, played the cold-hearted hospital director well, but wasn't on screen enough to get that across, before crumbling at what transpired. Robert Duvall as the lead cop on the case reminded me a lot for some reason as the cop he played in the great film Falling Down, the older cop who was on his way out but still dedicated to his job, even if other people in his life didn't respect him. James Wood was enjoyable as the rich cardiac surgeon who claimed his hands were tied by the hospital, even if he really wanted to do the surgery. And I enjoyed the hostages who although some were in pain and all were probably annoyed at being held hostage, still backed up John Q. and became friends with him.

One thing I didn't like, and skip this paragraph if you don't want to find out how the movie ends, was that the surgery itself seemed to last only 3 hours? I seem to recall 5:15pm as the time John wanted his son on the list, which happened. Then it was around 7 when the donor heart arrived, then around 10 when the transplant was done? Wouldn't a heart transplant take a little longer than that? And do they really just drop the heart into the body cavity and then shove it into place? All that seemed a bit off to me. And I did enjoy them having a trial at the end, instead of just letting the movie end with his son being saved. It at least lets you know that although his heart may have been in the right place, holding people captive will land you in jail. They don't say how long he spent there, but I would think it would be for a long time considering he was convicted on almost 12 counts of kidnapping and false imprisonment.

So overall (you can start reading again), John Q was a decent film that was made better by the presence of Denzel Washington. Without him, I'm not sure the movie would have been as good, even if the story was something we've seen hundreds of times before.

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reviewed 02/17/02

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