At the height of the HMO arrogance, Corporatized Medicine believed that they could mistreat human beings in the name of the dollar. I believe, I hope, that their attitude has taken a turn as they realized humanity will not be slapped down. Stir in the extra emotion of organ donation, in which one must die for another to live, and you have the electric tension of John Q.
John Archibald (Denzel Washington) is a good man, a hard worker, who just needs a little more luck and a few more hours at the slow factory job he holds. When his son, Mike (Daniel E. Smith) collapses at a baseball game, he is rushed to the hospital where John and his wife Denise (Kimberly Elise) discover that Mike needs a heart transplant, quickly.
But, John's insurance won't cover it. His company switched his health plan from a PPO to an HMO to save money, and there is no provision for transplantation. Hospital Director Rebecca Payne (played surprisingly well by Anne Heche) demands Mikey's transplant be treated as a cash account, demanding $75,000 down payment before Mike can even get on the donor list. (still think the donation process is not dollar driven?)
John tries to raise the money, but time is running out. In a desperate attempt to save his child, John takes heart surgeon Dr. Raymond Turner (James Woods) hostage, along with the emergency room staff, demanding that his son's name get on the list.
Hostage negotiator Lt. Frank Grimes (Robert Duvall) arrives on the scene, but is hampered by the presence of media-hungry Police Chief Gus Monroe (Ray Liotta). Also present is Tuck Lampley (Paul Johansson) a television reporter hungry for 'The Story' but who is sympathetic to John's plight.
The film is not action packed, but nonetheless has a palpable tension. It's a story of humanity, and the interactions between real people. It's a story about mistakes and redemptions, arrogance and assumptions, and the all too human core inside all of us.
The performances are spectacular. Denzel Washington, James Woods, Robert Duvall, Ray Liotta, Kimberly Elise, Paul Johansson, and (surprise) Anne Heche do phenomenally good jobs in their roles. The photography is excellent, the editing, script, and atmosphere are great, and the musical score matches mood with the film.
'John Q.' is one of those movies I can watch over and over again, and still feel the same emotion I felt the first time I watched it. Though the ending does have some unrealistic qualities, it fits well with the film and doesn't skip over the wrongs that John did to try and make things right for his son. Definitely a 'buy'. Enjoy!
on December 31, 2005
Director: Nick Cassavetes
Cast: Denzel Washington, Robert Duvall, James Woods, Kimberly Elise, Anne Heche, Ray Liotta, Ron Annabelle, Eddie Griffin, Daniel E. Smith, David Thronton, Shawn Hatosy.
Running Time: 116 minutes
Rated PG-13 for violence, language and intense thematic elements.
John Quincy Archibald (Denzel Washington) is a down-on-his-luck worker. He's about to be evicted from his home, he doesn't earn enough money, and is soon driven to the point of breaking. While at his son's (Mike) baseball game, the boy is overcome with convulsions andis rushed to a hospital, but his insurance coverage does not cover a heart transplant. He tries everything he can but can't get the money. He soon takes drastic measures as he takes twenty or so people hostage and takes over the ER at the hospital to get the transplant. Among the people is Dr. Raymond Turner (James Wood), a man who wishes John luck but can't give his son the transplant. Soon the situation turns into a police stand-off under the command of Lt. Frank Grimes (Robert Duvall) and Chief Gus Munroe (Ray Liotta). While Grimes wants John to surrender himself, Monroe is prepared to kill John just to end the crisis. As John waits for his son to be put on the donor list, he must take care of all the hurt hostages and keep the police from coming in. When John finds that he has the same blood-type and tissues as Mike, it become clear what he must do.
The audience are firmly on-side as Denzel's final, desperate plea to surgeon James Woods falls on deaf ears, and we understand why he believes the only option now open to him is to hijack the emergency room at Chicago Hope. However, the scenes in which Archibald takes over the hospital fall short of the drama the audience has been wound-up to expect. In some respects, this makes the development more realistic: Denzel doesn't suddenly become Bruce Willis and launch into a mass shoot 'em up; he is an ordinary, decent man, and his hijack is clumsy and somewhat botched: "John Q" is clearly out of his depth. The problem is that director Nick Cassavettes allows the film's momentum to dip irrecoverably during these scenes. There are some confusing moments while we wait for the authorities to work out what's going on and respond accordingly. This movie isn't like that: you know John isn't going to harm anybody, and moreover, you know his son is going to get a new heart. Worse still, you know, long before the climax of the film, how this is going to be achieved. For, although we've had time to forget about the opening sequence in which a young woman is involved in a car wreck, the same footage is repeated halfway through the story, leaving us in no doubt as to the identity of our donor. In it closing moments, "John Q" keeps its dignity, sending Archibald on a race against time to save his son or perhaps sacrifice himself. "John Q" never hits the dramatic high points we might have hoped for, nor does it tug convincingly on our heart strings, but it is at least a coherent and original movie, albeit one you're likely to forget as soon as you drop it back at the video store.
on July 26, 2002
Denzel Washington seems incapable of giving anything short of a great performance. He can be tough, scared, or tender, as the moment requires and this movie requires him to be all three. He plays a man who is devoted to his family and who is frustrated because the reduced hours of his job have caused a family financial crisis. When his son collapses on the baseball field because of a serious heart condition, John Q. (Washington) discovers that his insurance coverage has been reduced and will not cover a required heart transplant. After exhausting all the legal means at his disposal, John Q. takes over the hospital at gun-point and demands that his son be given a heart. The script then begins to spiral into melodrama and it becomes somewhat preachy. The message of poor health care for lower-income people may be legitimate, but it is presented in a heavy-handed manner. Despite these flaws, there are some tender and some tense moments in the film. Watching Denzel Washington is worth the price of admission.
on September 7, 2002
John Q is very predictable and unrealistic. It has its moments, but you can pretty much figure out most of the movie about a quarter of the way through it. The biggest problem is the way people react to different situations throughout the film. This makes it very unbelievable and almost laughable. The overall message of the film about our healthcare system is alright, but it's something I think most people are aware of. The only thing good about this movie is Denzel Washington. As always, he does an excellent job with his character. Not worth buying or even watching unless you are a huge Denzel fan.
I have always liked Hollywood movies that put the secret intelligence world on the spot:
Enemy of the State
Breach (Widescreen Edition)
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
This movie is so on target, but I did not want to watch it because I tended to put it off as over the top. After watching Michael Moore's Sicko (Special Edition), I went and rented this movie and am glad I did. If you wish, read my review of Sicko before watching John Q.
I'm not going to give away the ending, there are many excellent reviews below, but the bottom line is that our medical system is totally corrupt, trapping good people in a very bad system. We need to change that.
on October 7, 2015
A classic. This movie should be placed in every school and every library. This is great movie to get you to question concerns over the ever-growing problems with our nation's health care policies, as well as some hard-hitting performances from its talented actors. Because of this John Q is a awesome movie, even though it is predictable at points the movie will still pull at your heart strings.
This movie is brilliant not just from the great acting but also because their theme is so real-life. The basic plot is about a young boy who collapses at his softball game; we later find out that the reason why he collapses is because his heart is weak. He is in need of a heart transplant immediately. His parents have insurance, but the insurance will not cover the $250,000 heart transplant. Then Denzel shows everyone what unconditional love really is. You need to watch all that John Q. and his wife did in an effort to accumulate the funds needed for their sons' transplant was so emotional and so heartfelt.
on February 27, 2004
Do you have health insurance? If the answer is "Why no, Roman, I don't believe I do," then you really need to check out JOHN Q.
JOHN Q, a drama starring Denzel Washington as a father who takes matters into his own hands when his insurance won't foot the bill on a new heart for his dying son, has all the elements of a great drama except one - it tries desperately, but miserably fails to really keep you guessing.
Basic synopsis: Washington stars as John Q. Archibald, the kind of fellow who can't seem to get a break. However, his family life, while not full of monetary riches, is full of the heart-felt kind. And, when it comes to heart, no one surpasses his son, whose heart turns out to be three times too large. After young Mike Arhibald passes out on the baseball field (thunk!), doctors book him for a brief stay on the planet without a normal-sized heart, which his insurance won't pay for. The doctors and hospital administrators don't seem too sympathetic and old John Q just can't raise enough to money to fix the situation. So, in the dark of night, by the light of the full moon, he jumps the fence of a nearby pet cemetery and steals the heart of a pig in a desperate attempt to save his only son. O.k., that last part isn't true. I made it up. But, things do get nutty when John Q takes over the ER at gunpoint, demanding his son be placed at the top of the donor list.
The Cast: Denzel Washington (HURRICANE; GLORY) does an excellent job in any role he takes on. He can be an ex-slave soldier with no real heart, a boxer with all heart, or a daddy whose kid has too much heart. His part as John Q is no exception. He does a great job of looking flustered and scared yet determined throughout the crisis, like a real father would.
Robert Duvall (APOCOLYPSE NOW; FALLING DOWN) is no Samuel L. Jackson (THE NEGOTIATOR), but he still does a fantastic job as the "good cop/negotiator" in this crime caper. He's the police officer who does things for the "right reason."
Anne Heche (SIX DAYS SEVEN NIGHTS; RETURN TO PARADISE) is insensitive and cold. But, hospital administrators have to be. Do you have any idea how many sick people they see every day? Don't you think they might get just a little numb to tears? Still, you will hate her in a very healthy way.
James Woods (ANY GIVEN SUNDAY; THE GENERAL'S DAUGHTER), once again, lives up to his name as one of the best supporting actors of all time. This guy knows exactly when to push his dramatic expertise over the edge. His "didn't you ever have a dream" speech in ANY GIVEN SUNDAY is a prime example. While you really don't get too much of that in John Q, he keeps the emotion flowing.
Kimberly Elise (BELOVED) grows on you as the momma, but she cries so dang much it makes me want to shoot myself.
My take on the film: While JOHN Q may not have been the most-shocking movie of late, it was everything I thought it would be, which can be both good and bad.
It had plenty of drama and great acting on the part of Washington. That was great.
It was full of unique camera angles, music that really clicked, and casting that can't be beat. Also a big plus.
However, all the health insurance ranting was not what I wanted to hear about. I wanted to see a drama where a daddy takes care of his boy and refuses to let the world and all its nonsensical rules stand in its way.
Also, there were parts of this movie that no one, not even a pawn shop owner, would buy. I don't want to give anything away, but I hope the cops and judicial system don't handle a real incident the way they do in JOHN Q.
Overall though, it was a fairly good film. It certainly wasn't GLORY or MALCOLM X caliber, but it was far from boring and kept me on the edge of my seat, even though I knew basically what was going to happen from start to finish. JOHN Q is definitely worth renting and almost certainly worth checking out in theaters, but don't expect anything Oscar caliber.
JOHN Q (2002) is a drama about health insurance, starring Denzel Washington (father), Kimberly Elise (mother), James Woods (heart surgeon), and Robert Duvall (police negotiator). The film also includes Daniel Smith (the son), Anne Heche (cold-hearted hospital administrator who has no choice but to deliver continuing disappointing news to Denzel), and Paul Lampley (television reporter covering events taking place in the emergency room, thereby drumming up public support for Denzel, and embarrassment to the hospital).
IN A NUTSHELL. In a nutshell, Denzel's young son is in a baseball game, but loses consciousness while running from first base to second base. He is taken away in an ambulance, and is diagnosed with a heart failure. Because of the inadequacy of his heart, the heart has expanded to three times its normal size. The only treatment is a heart transplant. The main issue (meaning, "big problem") is that Denzel's health insurance doesn't cover heart transplants. A second and underlying issue, which is a continuing theme in this movie, is the divide between the rich and poor in America, regarding access to insurance that provides comprehensive medical care. Denzel formulates a quick fix to his dilemma, and decides to use a gun to take hostages in the emergency room. Denzel's goal, in taking hostages is to force the administration to agree to put the son on the waiting list for receiving a heart transplant. The hostages include James Woods, and several others.
The film is remarkable in its inclusion of African Americans and Hispanics, but where the reason to include them has absolutely nothing to do with their racial or ethnic background. In other words, the film includes African-Americans and Hispanics, only because these folks that are typically encountered in society. To illustrate my point, movies such as MEN OF HONOR or TUSKEEGEE AIRMEN, include African-Americans only for the reason they are African-Americans. But JOHN Q includes a rich assortment of African-Americans and Hispanics, only because the American populace comprises these particular groups.
WHAT THE FILM IS NOT. The storyline is excellent, despite the flawed premise that there is anything appropriate or believable about the notion that one can take hostages in the emergency room of a hospital, in order to force the hospital to foot the bill for a $250,000 medical procedure. Rather than give away too many elements of the story, I will only state what the film is not. There are no computer graphics. There are no wild police chase scenes. There is essentially no swearing. There are no gunfights. Also, this is not a comedy, though there are occasional comedic nuances, now and then, from two of the hostages. Despite the lack of violence in this movie, the final 20 minutes or so provides a tense direction in the plotline, which is likely to induce nail-biting behavior in many viewers. Although the film is notably lacking in clever dialogue, amusing cliches, and memorable throw-away lines, the movie is rich in something else. What the film is rich in is its presentation of ethical dilemmas, and a plot that unfolds itself and compels the viewer to remain glued to his seat.
THE ENDING. The last 20 minutes of the film gets more intense, and there are a couple of clever twists in the plot. The film has a happy ending. I do not reveal the ending in this review.
on July 11, 2015
A classic. This movie should be placed in every school and every library. It probably is the basis for the new healthcare law. It's sad and pathetic that working-class people are treated so badly by money-grubbing insurance companies. There was a similar movie about veterans' healthcare mistreatment titled "Article 99" which also was a classic. Wish real life were different but unfortunately these movies are brilliant not just from the great acting but also because their theme is so real-life.
on April 8, 2010
John Q. is a movie about a young boy who collapses at his softball game; we later find out that the reason why he collapses is because his heart is weak. He is in need of a heart transplant immediately. His parents have insurance, but the insurance will not cover the $250,000 heart transplant. John Q. Archibald, enter stage left.
To watch all that John Q. and his wife did in an effort to accumulate the funds needed for their sons' transplant was so emotional and so heartfelt. I saw love. I saw determination. I saw an unrelenting father doing all that he could to ensure that his son survived. He sold all of their jewels, appliances and anything else worth anything, he went to insurance company begging them to help him, he visited the hospital, hoping they would help him, and he even told the doctor that it was all right to kill him and give his son his heart. I was so touched during that whole movie, it's difficult to even put my feelings into words.
If you opt to watch this movie, you will be entertained. But on a deeper level, you will be moved and you will see what the phrase "I love you" is all about. What a dynamic, unforgettable feature film.