John Q

"Bad"

John Q Review


From its very first scene, "John Q" feels as if it's designed to put a choke leash around your neck so director Nick Cassavetes can give it a good, hard yank whenever he wants you to feel something.

In this opening scene we watch a pretty blonde in a white BMW passing cars on a winding mountain road with a double yellow line. I'm sure I don't have to tell you what's coming, but Cassavetes toys with the viewer, dragging out a couple close calls to make your heart race before -- whammo! Squashed blonde.

What does this have to do with a movie about factory worker Denzel Washington taking over an emergency room at gunpoint to get his dying son a heart transplant? You guessed it -- the girl's an organ donor. But "John Q" doesn't get back to her until 10 minutes before the end of the movie. Cassavetes just puts it at the beginning for shock value.

Afterwards he introduces us to John Q. Archibald (Washington), a struggling blue collar guy and stand-up father whose factory job has been cut down to 20 hours a week, thus disqualifying him from full insurance coverage. But John doesn't find this out until his 9-year-old son (Daniel E. Smith) collapses during a Little League game. Once he's rushed to the hospital and stabilized, the inimically blunt doctor (James Woods) tells John and his wife (Kimberly Elise) that the boy's overworked heart is three times its proper size and he'll die without a transplant -- which is no longer covered by John's HMO.

"You might want to make this a happy time and say goodbye," says the cartoonishly callous hospital administrator played by Anne Heche.

Yank! Yank! Booo! Sssss!

It's about this point that the film's loud, exploitive, melodramatic soundtrack kicks in (Yank! Yank!), ruining several sincere scenes of John and his wife selling furniture, accepting charity at church and applying for Medicaid, hoping to scratch together a $75,000 down payment on the $250,000 operation.

But Cassavetes is just getting warmed up. Once John gives up on proper channels and starts waving a gun around the hospital emergency room, you have to put up with...

1) A "shoot first, ask questions later" police chief (Ray Liotta) showboating his tough-on-crime stance for his political career (Boooo!).

2) Narration by an super-suntanned tabloid TV newsman who taps into the hospital's security cameras and declares "This is my white Bronco!" (Sssss!)

3) The absurdity of crowds outside the police barricades cheering John on as if they're at a college football game.

And 4) an only-in-the-movies comic relief hostage (Eddie Griffin), probably added to the script after some studio suit complained, "Does this have to be so depressing?"

Meanwhile, in the hospital's ICU, John's wife and son, and all the doctors and nurses, are somehow unaware that hostages have been taken in another part of the building until a sympathetic police negotiator (Robert Duvall) comes to ask the wife to talk John down. When she refuses, Cassavetes inserts a pregnant pause so you can cheer without missing any dialogue.

If this review sounds harsh, it's only because there was so much potential here, and it made me angry to see it thrown away in such a crass, blatantly manipulative way. Denzel Washington gives the kind of engrossing and powerful performance you expect from him, culminating in a scene in which he thinks he's doomed and kneels by his son's hospital bed, trying to impart a lifetime of fatherly advice all at once.

If the rest of "John Q" was half as sincere and self-possessed as this brief moment, it might have been a brilliant and moving film. Its heart is in the right place (no pun intended) and its message is true -- HMOs are inherently evil.

But this movie plays the audience for chumps every bit as much as HMOs do, going for easy indignant cheers, easy righteous solutions and easy Hollywood feel-good moments. It's designed to make you feel like a miscreant if you question anything about it and don't get swept up in its tidal wave of emotional artifice.

But I'm not a miscreant, I'm just a moviegoer with a mind of my own. So tell me a story, sell me on its emotional veracity, but go about it honestly. Don't slap me in the face to make me angry, don't rub onions in my eyes to make me cry and don't insult my intelligence by reducing the complexities of human sentiment to Pavlovian button pushing.



John Q

Facts and Figures

Run time: 116 mins

In Theaters: Friday 15th February 2002

Box Office USA: $71.0M

Box Office Worldwide: $102.2M

Budget: $36M

Distributed by: New Line Cinema

Production compaines: Evolution Entertainment, New Line Cinema, Burg/Koules Productions

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 1.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 23%
Fresh: 30 Rotten: 101

IMDB: 7.0 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as John Quincy Archibald, as Frank Grimes, as Rebecca Payne, as Denise Archibald, as Mike Archibald, Larissa Laskin as Dr. Ellen Klein, as Dr. Raymond Turner, as Guard Max Conlin, as Mitch Quigley, as Julie Bird, as Chief Gus Monroe, as Lester Matthews, as Debby Utley, Shera Danese as Wife of Heart Transplant Patient

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Jackie Movie Review

Jackie Movie Review

Rather than make a standard biopic about the most famous First Lady in American history,...

Split Movie Review

Split Movie Review

After a few badly received sci-fi blockbusters, M. Night Shyamalan returned to his earthier style...

xXx: Return of Xander Cage Movie Review

xXx: Return of Xander Cage Movie Review

It's been 15 years since Vin Diesel walked away from his XXX role, killing off...

Manchester by the Sea Movie Review

Manchester by the Sea Movie Review

This may not be the cheeriest movie of the season, but it's so skilfully written,...

Live By Night Movie Review

Live By Night Movie Review

Ben Affleck launched his directing career 10 years ago with his film of Dennis Lehane's...

La La Land Movie Review

La La Land Movie Review

After storming awards season with Whiplash two years ago, writer-director Damien Chazelle returns with something...

Assassin's Creed Movie Review

Assassin's Creed Movie Review

Hopes were high that this film might finally crack the curse of movies based on...

Advertisement
Silence Movie Review

Silence Movie Review

Faith is a topic Martin Scorsese can't quite shake, courting controversy with complex films like...

A Monster Calls Movie Review

A Monster Calls Movie Review

A difficult movie to market, this isn't actually the BFG-style fantasy adventure it looks like....

Monster Trucks Movie Review

Monster Trucks Movie Review

Word has it that a 4-year-old came up with the idea for this unapologetically silly...

Collateral Beauty Movie Review

Collateral Beauty Movie Review

Dramas exploring the nature of death and the true meaning of life are always in...

Paterson Movie Review

Paterson Movie Review

Unpredictable filmmaker Jim Jarmusch ricochets from his artful vampire movie Only Lovers Left Alive into...

I, Daniel Blake Movie Review

I, Daniel Blake Movie Review

At 80 years old, British filmmaker Ken Loach won his second Cannes Film Festival with...

Why Him? Movie Review

Why Him? Movie Review

Writer-director John Hamburg continues to recycle the formula that made his first hit Meet the...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.