John Q. Review
Director Nick Cassavetes demonstrates with his latest film John Q. that he hasn't inherited any of his father John Cassavetes' edgy flair for making movies. There is an important message somewhere in John Q., a film that is essentially a damning indictment of the American health service, and yet as a film it never pushes beyond the realms of ordinary.
John Q. Archibald (Denzel Washington fresh from his Oscar success in Training Day) is a factory worker struggling to make ends meet whilst times are slow. He has a wife and loving child to care for, and he is constantly turned down when applying for new jobs because he is over qualified. One day, whilst watching at a baseball game, his son collapses suddenly and is rushed to hospital. John is told that his son requires an emergency heart transplant in order to live, and that he will be unable to afford it and his medical insurance won't cover it. This angers John tremendously, and he appeals to Dr. Raymond Turner (James Woods) and Hospital administrator Rececca Payne (Anne Heche) for help and they coldly refuse him. Realising that time isn't on his side, John takes matters into his own hands and holds the hospital staff at gunpoint, demanding that his son be treated. However, with time running out and the police closing in, John may have forced himself into a corner.
The moral message behind John Q. is so ferocious and blatant that this would be pure TV-movie fare had Denzel Washington not been the star. Basically, the film is promoting the concept that the USA clearly needs a National Health Service, so why the need for sub-par The Negotiator-type action? The main problem with John Q. is that it tries to be two films in one, and what results is a pedestrian action movie and a very badly scripted ethical tale. The actors try their best with what are awful two-dimensional stereotypes. Washington is his usual chip-on-shoulder self, and James Woods and Anne Heche would give Bond villains a run for their money when it comes to playing heartless characters, and yet the film never at any point comes close to seeming realistic. Robert Duvall even seems like his character was borrowed straight from Falling Down, and Ray Liotta seems wasted. The soundtrack is overbearing and terribly manipulative, and Cassavetes' directorial touches are so glaringly textbook and obvious that any dramatic momentum that is built up is instantly junked.
John Q. is a pretentious film that ultimately lacked confidence. The ethical medical issues of the film were interesting enough to contain an entire movie, and instead the makers have chosen the conventional actioner route in an attempt to appeal to more mainstream audiences. This is ironic, considering that audiences have been strongly warned by critics to stay away from this mess.