John Q
Director: Nick Cassavetes
Writer(s): James Kearns Category: Drama / Thriller
Runtime: 116 min
Country: USA
Language: English
Year: 2002
Tagline: Give a father no options and you leave him no choice.

Plot:Denzel Washington plays John Q, a luckless blue-collar workingman without the insurance needed to cover his son’s emergency heart transplant. Driven to desperation, he holds a hospital’s emergency room hostage until doctors agree to perform the operation. James Woods and Anne Heche are a couple of stubborn hospital staffers. Robert Duvall plays a no-nonesense hostage negotiator and Ray Liotta is a gung ho police chief in this gripping story about the possible consequences of real social ills.

Review: I delayed watching this movie from the simple fact that the previews gave me the impression that this was a “squashed squirrel.” There are two ways to elicit emotion: 1) provide a cliche device, such as a squashed squirrel (who won’t go “awwww” when seeing a small animal hurt?), or 2) earn your audience emotions by providing them with honest writing and believable situations. Unfortunately, John Q goes for the easy cliche almost every time.

Denzel Washington is an excellent actor and try as he might, he simply can’t escape from the script. At every turn he’s handed another maudlin easy out. And that’s really a shame because the topic addresses some fairly tough questions. There was real opportunity to provide a rich story filled with interesting dialog regarding the U.S healthcare system. Instead we’re presented with stereotypes of the “rich doctor,” the “mean hospital administrator” and the “gung ho cop.” Been there, done that and I didn’t care to see it the first time.

Major talent is wasted as well. Robert Duvall’s character, Lt. Frank Grimes, doesn’t have enough material to even be effective as cast member. At the end of the movie, I was left wondering why we even needed his character – he had no arc and provided no real insight to the drama. Duvall is a fantastic character actor and he’s given nothing to work with.

The rest of the cast is mostly a mixed bag of good and bad. All Kimberly Elise can do is play anger as Denise Archibald, John’s wife. Her performance was disappointing since her character had the most to work with. James Woods and Anne Heche can likewise do little in their roles than play the stereotypes that they’ve been given. However Eddie Griffin did standout as one of the more honest characters as Lester Matthews, one of the hostages. Granted, his role didn’t require much of a stretch, but it was a breath of fresh air and one of the few redeeming elements of the movie.

The bottom line is that James Kearns, the writer and co-producer, simply provided nothing but a sow’s ear to the cast and no amount of magic was going to turn it into a silk purse. Kearns’ work may have been appropriate for “Jake and the Fatman”, or “Highway to Heaven”, (he wrote for both TV series), but it simply wasn’t up to snuff for the cadre of talent on the playbill.

My Rating: 2 Stars 2 out of 5 stars
My IMDB Review: [link]