Retro Review: John Q

A commentary on the American health care system mixed with the intensity of “Dog Day Afternoon” and incredible acting of Denzel Washington. It could be only one thing, “John Q”.

Denzel Washington stars as John Quincy Archibald, a father who has just found out his son needs a heart transplant or he will surely die. John Q is a part-time construction worker and is barely struggling to make ends meet.

The hospital’s administrator (Anne Heche) and the hospital’s leading cardiac surgeon (James Woods) explain to John and his wife that it would cost over $250,000 to complete the surgery on their son. They suggest the couple focus on “quality of life” since they can’t afford such a high bill.

John does everything in his power to come up with the money but falls several tens of thousands short. John is pushed to the edge and takes the hospital hostage. He will kill people unless his son gets on the donor’s recipient list. All John wants is a chance but society won’t even give him that.

The surprising thing about “John Q” is that someone hasn’t already done this in real life. The film states that over 7,000 people face this kind of healthcare crisis every year in America. What kind of price do we put on our loved ones? What kind of price do we put on the life of our children? It’s a crippling shame we even have to endure such a thought.

That sentiment and tragedy is incased within Washington’s portrayal of John Q. Forget Washington’s performance in “Training Day” and watch how a great actor can encompass a role. The desperation and pain of what John feels is felt within us all.

Hollywood handles this sensitive and controversial subject in fine style as the film’s ending and John’s desperate resolution is just so brilliant. I really enjoyed John Q.

I liked how actor-director Nick Cassavetes slowly leads up to the film’s plot then hits us over the head with how difficult John’s struggle is.

Beside Denzel’s performance the supporting cast also holds its own. Heche’s portrayal of the hospital administrator is so cryptic and without emotion that we really hate this woman.

Woods’s performance as the smug playboy surgeon is humorous and arrogant at the same time. Robert Duvall plays the aging detective assigned to talk down Washington.

Duvall plays his role much the same way he played the detective in “Falling Down”. Finally Ray Liotta brings his authoritarian charisma to the police chief. Liotta always plays the same guy and he does his usual job here.

John Q is an excellent drama which makes us think and expresses the issues. What else could you want in a drama?

(4 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer.

Written: February 18, 2002

2 thoughts on “Retro Review: John Q

  1. hi..i really love the movie.it makes me cry, huh?
    but i still want a good ending on it.i was hunged.
    i hope that hospital policies be changed. that they must cure and save lives befor the money matters>
    After all…GOD has given them talents nad doctors must repay God by helping the needy.

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