Armed men hijack a New York City subway train, holding the passengers hostage in return for a ransom, and turning an ordinary day's work for dispatcher Walter Garber into a face-off with the mastermind behind the crime.
John Quincy Archibald's son Michael collapses while playing baseball as a result of heart failure. John rushes Michael to a hospital emergency room where he is informed that Michael's only hope is a transplant. Unfortunately, John's insurance won't cover his son's transplant. Out of options, John Q. takes the emergency room staff and patients hostage until hospital doctors agree to do the transplant. Written by
Highly under-rated and ignored by most in 2002, "John Q" is one of those movies that is sometimes too intelligent for a viewing public unfamiliar with topics never really thought about in common societal circles (health care and insurance policies, rights of blue-collar citizens, media exploitation, law enforcement practices and over-paid medical specialists). Denzel Washington's young son falls out one day at a little league baseball game. The diagnosis is frightening. Without a new heart, the boy will most definitely die. Washington, a normal everyday citizen, lacks substantial resources and benefits from his insurance to even get his son on a donor's list. It is blatantly obvious that Washington and wife Kimberly Elise are being strangled by red tape in a mercilessly heartless (no pun intended) system. Friends Laura Herring and David Thornton (and seemingly countless other ordinary people) do their best to help the couple raise money and soon it seems that most everything they have is on the market to be sold. Work and more hard work does not get the couple much closer to having the money they desperately need. Washington realizes that time is now of the essence. He has been pushed and pushed again and now he takes it upon himself to push back. As a last resort he literally takes the doctor (James Woods) hostage, along with other bystanders who have nothing to do with Washington's war with the hospitals and insurance organizations. Immediately cops led by Robert Duvall and Ray Liotta surround the hospital and the tenseness builds. Hungry media cronies (who would not help Washington when he had asked earlier) also try to benefit from the misery of all those that are involved with their typical exploitation tactics (one thing Jerry Springer got right). Will Washington's son be saved and is Washington actually willing to take his own life in the venture so his boy can live? "John Q" is a very impressive production from director Nick Cassavetes (showing much of the same ability his late father John showed throughout his career). Screenwriter James Kearns gets to the soul of an American society that has been blinded by economics and inefficient big-wigs who have no business possessing the careers they have. Morality has gone out the window and that "hypocritical oath" that is so prevalent in the medical field seems to be little more than a silly afterthought. "John Q" succeeds everywhere just about except in its ending. The ending is a major mistake that took away from some of the good things accomplished before the final ten minutes. Washington, arguably better here than in recent triumphs like "Training Day" (an Oscar-winning role) and "Antwone Fisher", goes to an even higher plateau here. Much like Al Pacino in the equally under-rated "Dog Day Afternoon" (an admittedly better picture), Washington dominates in a role that thrives on a claustrophobic aspect that cannot be escaped or denied within the film's running time. Duvall and Woods are also solid, as always, but Washington is the man here. Strikingly accurate when pointing the finger at things wrong with America these days, "John Q" is a thought-provoking production that will cause its audience to think and learn about sometimes forgotten aspects of human life. 4 stars out of 5.
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