Projections - Movie Reviews

John Q

John Q

Denzel Washington's John Q takes numerous liberties with fact and procedure, but we quickly forget the flaws as John Quincy Archibald, a regular working guy, takes on the medical establishment and the political system which is willing to allow his son to die because John doesn't have the money for a heart transplant.

I can't remember better audience reaction to a film.  Between cheers and tears everyone from all walks of life and age will be involved in John Q's problem and mission.

John and his wife Denise (Kimberly Elise) are the core of a working family.  He works in a factory, but his time has been cut in half and the money his wife makes at a grocery story doesn't quite keep them financially above ground.  But despite that the family functions well until their son, Mike (Daniel E. Smith) a wrestling fan falls into a coma while running from first to second base in a baseball game.

What appears to be a simple faint is a seriously enlarged heart that must be replaced if Mike is to survive. The Archibalds do everything right, first using their health plan which they expect will take over the cost of the transplant, only to find his half time status at work has resulted in the sale of his insurance plan for a limited one which is capped at twenty thousand dollars.  The transplant will cost two hundred fifty thousand dollars.

The top brass at the hospital Dr. Turner (James Woods) and particularly the hospital administrator Rebecca Payne (Anne Heche) say all the right things but John quickly finds out they are willing to let Mike die without even putting him on the donor list because he doesn't have the money.  After selling everything they can the frantic parents confront each other with Denise telling John our son is going to die what are you going to do about it.

John Q has his back against the wall and decides to take action by holding hostages in the hospital and declaring "the hospital is under new management."  One of the hostages is Dr. Turner who will prove valuable.

While the story is tense, powerful and engrossing Eddie Griffin, one of the hostages, provides comical one liners which break the tension at each critical point.  Shawn Hatosy is the hostage we love to hate, a selfish abuser who we want to pound into the ground.  Robert Duvall is the cynical police Lieutenant who is in charge of the hostage negotiations with John, and Ray Liotta is the police chief who is willing to shot down the average man to end the situation.

So what we have is a non perfect film with clear lines of who to cheer for and who to hate and that makes for great emotional film making.  Washington is a perfect every man, we can all identify with him as does the public in the film while watching a police surveillance camera that the pompous TV anchor has connected and put on the air.  With the world watching John has the upper hand, but one error could end with both father and son dead.

Perhaps we need more films that are not complex where we clearly know the good guys, like the  black hats versus the white hats in the old westerns.  It gives us an opportunity to cheer and boo because we know who is right and who is wrong while providing great entertainment.

John Q

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