John Q (2002)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Crime Drama, Medical Drama  |   Release Date - Feb 15, 2002 (USA)  |   Run Time - 118 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG13
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Review by Mike Cummings

This 2002 film wastes its strong cast and timely theme on a pedestrian script. The thesis is certainly valid: the need to reform a health-care system that neglects the poor. But preachiness, sentimentality, weak characterization, and implausible situations undo the production. The film goes awry when John Quincy Archibald (Denzel Washington), an impoverished workingman with HMO insurance, tries to register his dying son for a heart transplant. The whole world then gangs up on John Q. First, the money-hungry health plan refuses to cover the operation. Then, the money-hungry hospital tells him to go home and just let his son die. When John Q. tries to raise cash, even a pawnbroker takes advantage of him. In a Dog Day Afternoon rip-off, he gets a handgun, takes over an entire hospital floor, and demands a heart for his son. Though only a blue-collar worker, he philosophizes like Shakespeare and wins everybody over. The script then trots out a parade of stereotyped characters to complicate the plot. Among them are a self-centered TV reporter, a trigger-happy police chief eager to turn the crisis into a political coup, and an over-the-hill cop struggling to talk John Q. out of the hospital. The low point of the movie comes when John Q. prepares to shoot himself so a surgeon can cut out his heart and sew it into his son's chest. All the while, a helicopter races toward the hospital with a heart, and the movie -- mercifully -- approaches its tear-jerking conclusion.