The true art of any good film is it’s ability to take you on an emotional roller-coaster, making you angry, sad, happy and inspired. John Q does each of these and makes for a highly emotional drama.
John Quincy Archibald (Denzel Washington) is a working man who barely gets through each bill that comes through his door. He has a loving wife and son to take care of too. One day John’s son drops to the ground in the middle of a baseball game and John later finds out that his son needs a heart transplant or he will die. John of course wants to pay, but he simply hasn’t the money to pay for it. Pushed to the edge with no other choice than to force the procedure to occur, John takes over the hospital with a gun in hand and takes several hospital workers hostage, with the message that he will start shooting if his son isn’t operated on.
John Q was lambasted by critics for being clichéd and for pulling at heart-strings but to me it was a fresh and honest tale about the effects of a money hungry health system. Denzel’s character is pushed to the wall and his criminal response becomes highly understandable. Denzel Washington gives a truly harrowing performance here and I challenge anyone, even if they don’t like the film, to doubt or criticise his performance. Washington is really believable as an everyman who is honest and hopeful even through some tough times, a timely message to get from a film.
Other cast members do good work here aswell, like James Woods as the wealthy doctor who can help John, but financial issues prevent him from doing so. Robert Duvall has a nice role as well as the hostage negotiator and Ray Liotta is a nice choice as the cocky chief of police. The tone of the film is for the most part quite preachy, in that it continuously slams the american health system and its very much a one sided argument. But the best parts of the film are where we see Denzel’s love for his dying kid and we see how far he’ll go to ensure his son doesn’t perish.
John Q is Denzel’s most emotional performance and one of his finest films. I connected with film’s heart and it’s powerful lead performances. John Q may be loud and relentless in its opinions, but if you feel strongly about things like this you can forgive the anger.