It's a tribute to Denzel Washington's talent that you are able to forgive a film its shortcomings. His Oscar winning performance in Training Day elevated the otherwise trite cop flick to something more memorable. In less skillful hands John Q's plot of a desperate father holding up a hospital in order to get them to perform heart surgery on his child would be ludicrous, but Washington's unwavering believability at least encourages, if not eliminates, the suspension of disbelief.
Despite its far-fetched premise and often clumsy execution, John Q is creditable for its attempt to illustrate the inequities and failings of the American healthcare system. It makes its points in dramatic if overwrought ...view middle of the document...
The Archibald's problems mount when John discovers his health insurance policy does not cover the expensive procedure. The hospital's ruthless administrator, Rebecca Payne (Anne Heche), threatens to send the dying Mike home unless his parents can come up with the down payment of $75,000 required for his name to be put on the recipient list for prospective donors. When the normally law abiding, peaceful John is unable to raise the money, he becomes desperate.
The harsh economics of American healthcare afford little room for sentiment. That a so-called civilised society could condemn someone to death simply because they can't afford adequate insurance is unfathomable, but a reality. That is why when John Q, who chooses to be known by the initial of his middle name Quincy, takes the hospital's top cardiologist, Dr Turner (James Woods), along with some patients and nurses, hostage, the film begins its downward spiral into unreality.
The journey involves the intervention of the straight talking police negotiator Lt. Frank Grimes (Robert Duvall), his contemptuous boss Munro (Ray Liotta), a smarmy news reporter Tuck Lampley (Paul Johansson) and a waiting room full of colourful and cliched stereotypes, headed up by the wise cracking Lester (Eddie Griffin).
Director Nick Cassavetes and screenwriter James Kearns raise some valid arguments and watching John Q's utter frustration in the face of unswerving bureaucracy provides the film with a central figure everyone can identify with. But having established a connection, John Q's relinquishes it with an increasing dependence on melodrama that undermines the film's meaningful intentions.