Give a father no options and you leave him no choice.

Director: Nick Cassavetes
Screenplay: James Kearns
Genre: Thriller/Drama
Denzel Washington: John Q. Archibald
Robert Duvall: Grimes
James Woods: Dr. Turner
Anne Heche Rebecca Payne
Eddie Griffin: Lester
Kimberly Elise: Denise Archibald
Shawn Hatosy: Mitch
Ray Liotta: Police Chief Monro
Daniel E. Smith: Mike Archibald
Ethan Suplee: Max
Kevin Connolly: Steve Maguire
Paul Johansson: Tuck Lampley
Heather Wahlquist: Julie
Troy Beyer: Miriam
Obba Babatundé: Sgt. Moody

John Q. is the story of a working class father led to an act of desperation in order to save his son's life. When ten year-old Mike collapses during a baseball game, he is rushed to the hospital by his parents only to find out that his heart is useless and that he requires a transplant. John and Denise Archibald are determined to save their son's life, but are unable to find the financial assistance they need in order to pay for the expensive procedure. John finds that his insurance provider has been changed by his long standing employer and no longer covers surgery of such a magnitude.

The family finds itself in a tricky, yet not unheard of situation. They are too poor to receive full health insurance from their employers, but not poor enough to receive assistance from the government. The people at the hospital, doctors and administrators, show little sympathy and are more than willing to allow nature take its course if the Archibald's do not pay for the $ 250 000 operation up front.

Like any man who loves his child, John does everything in his power to find the money and tries every avenue open to him to get assistance. Despite raising the majority of the down payment, the hospital decides to release Mike anyway, fearing non payment. John, feeling he has no other option, takes a handful of people in the ER hostage and demands that his son's name be placed on the top of the organ recipient list. This act turns in a national media event and…

I won't tell you the end.

John Q. is a textbook Hollywood drama. Most of the characters are stereotypes and you can swear you have seen many of the scenes in other movies of the same type. We have the smarmy TV host (Paul Johansson), the cold and unfeeling hospital administrator (Anne Heche), the rich and sleazy cardiac surgeon (James Woods) and the fast talking, wise cracking hoodlum (Eddie Griffin). We also have the typical clash of personalities between the chief of police (Ray Liotta) and the head of the police department (Robert Duvall). I need go no further. Most of the dialogue is, likewise, generally uninspired and even at times, embarrassingly bad and predictable.

This is Hollywood though and in exchange for originality and art, you get more than your fair share of drama and action. The acting is generally strong and the movie is well put together and nothing short of entertaining. As a blockbuster, this movie gets my two thumbs up and it does have one saving grace: its lead actor.

If you ever doubted that Denzel Washington is an actor of the most incredible talent, skill and magnitude, doubt no more. The only "real" thing in this film, is the performance given by Washington. Like Wil Smith in Ali, Washington gives this film some substance. His performance is simply astounding. The actor spent 3 months working at a factory prior to filming, even though only a handful of scenes take place on location.

John Q. is the unlikely hero. He is not used to violence or such acts of taking control and demanding action. He is an average Joe. He fumbles with the gun he uses to take hostages and he doesn't even disable all the cameras to the ER. He is nothing short of unprofessional. His criminal actions are clearly and obviously not intended to hurt or victimize anyone, but stem from his own desperation and frustration. We might not agree with him, but we can surely sympathize with him.

It is worth going to see John Q. for this performance alone, since even in the light of all the other failures of this movie, he not only rescues it, but gives us a character that is endearing and real. Perhaps the creators intended to make a social statement about the state of health care (or lack thereof) in the US, but the script is too fluff to be taken seriously as any such thing. Instead, what we inadvertently get is a protagonist that is human.

My only hope for Denzel Washington is that he is more discerning with future roles, using his talents in films more worthy of his skills.

An awesome movie starring Denzel Washington, Robert Duvall, and Anne Heche.

Denzel Washington plays John Quincy Archibald, aka John Q. He has a full-time factory job, his wife is employed as a waitress. They have one son, who looks 10.

The movie opens with them together as a family. Their car is repossessed, John is looking for a second job. Suddenly during the son's baseball game, the son collapses. They rush hiim to a hospital, and it turns out he's in heart failure. He needs a heart transplant, an operation that will cost upwards of $250,000 for total care. The problem is that his insurance won't cover it (it's an HMO, go figure), so the hospital refuses to put him on the organ donor list.

First off, everything leading up to this point makes you feel sorry for the guy, but that's a good thing. You see he's a hard worker, he's poor, and that puts a strain on his family. Everybody he talks to says that their boss/corporation/organization forbids them to make an exception. You see him going from place to place, his insurance agent can't help, his hospital requires a down payment before there can be a transplant, and he's still at least $50,000 short of a down payment. The entire time you feel as if he's alone, the world is turning its back on him. You're not sure who or what the movie is preaching about. HMOs? The cold and uncaring world? One man in the sea of indifference?

After hitting a dead end at every turn, and exhausting all his options, his wife calls home. She is sobbing, the hospital is discharging him because they think he'll never come up with the money. He rushes down to talk with the doctor, but he says the hospital and the system just won't let him.

The end result is that he pulls out a gun and takes the Emergency Room hostage. He barricades himself in, along with about 8 other people in the waiting room. He only has one demand: put his son on the transplant list. From here on, the police show up, the press get involved, and you feel touched as this drama continues.

I don't really like dramas, but this movie is probably one of the best. You feel really bad for the guy, and things are in motion that are life and death, but entirely beyond his control. Denzel puts on an amazing performance, he comes across as completely sincere, crying over his son's condition. There is this whole theme of him being a vigilante versus a hero.

The film has some scenes that are slow and full of emotion, every so often there's a punctuation of action, but the suspense stays pretty constant and thick throughout. There is comedy, as the hostages come through with personalities. It's like in Speed, but the hostages have more depth, and say more.

I've heard it compared to 15 minutes in ways. This guy is trapped himself, so he takes hostages. The police are instead trying to take him out with a sniper, and the demonic TV stations get in the way, like Die Hard.

Roger Ebert boldy predicts that this movie may take the Oscar for Best Picture. To paraphrase: LOTR probably won't win because the academy doesn't favor fantasy movies. A Beautiful Mind would be next in line, but the movie is sorta marred by the fact that there are some inaccuracies in the history portrayed, in order to make a better plot. The Academy prefers "emotional" "dramatic" movies, and John Q might just take the cake.

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