John Q (2002), Run-time 116mins, Cert 15.

Director - Nick Cassavetes.

Writer - James Kearns.

Starring - Denzel Washington, James Woods, Robert Duvall, Anne Heche, Kimberly Elise, Eddie Griffin & Ray Liotta.


Premise - John Q. Archibald's (Denzel Washington) son collapses during a little league baseball game. When he is taken to the hospital cardiologist Dr. Turner (James Woods) tells John that his son needs a heart transplant or he will die. The hospital administrator Rebecca Payne (Anne Heche) however, tells John that the operation isn't covered by his insurance. As desperation sets in and his sons time runs short John takes the hospitals ER hostage until his son is given the treatment he needs to live.

It’s very rare for me to cringe during a film, or to laugh at the ludicrousness of the events transpiring before me. It’s telling then that during the tortuously long running time of John Q that I spent the majority of said time either cringing or laughing. This film is bad, really bad. Sure, things start off alright.

We are introduced to the Archibald family, they do the best with what they have and seem to have a fairly loving home life. Things are fine after little Mike ends up in hospital, I enjoyed John trying to get the money together, it was fairly intriguing stuff. Where the film goes all wrong though is the second that John chains up that ER door.

I appreciate that when you watch films you have to suspend belief to a certain degree, but this is just lunacy. There are so many reasons why this just plain wouldn’t happen that I don’t have the time or the effort to list them. One man, with a single hand gun takes over an entire Hospital ER? No chance, not going to happen. How about this one? By closing the ER to emergencies John Q potentially killed more people than his little hostage crisis saved!

Then we are introduced to the motley crew of hostages. Honestly the writer must have had the big book of Hollywood clichés close at hand when he wrote this one. Got the checklist handy? Here we go. There’s a heavily pregnant woman, a wife beater, a jive talking ‘brother’ and a non English speaking woman with a baby. Good gravy, give me a break!

Oh, the clichés don’t end there. Bring in the Chicago PD! The old time veteran getting his balls busted from the sassy younger Chief of Police. You wanted it and here they come! Whilst you’re outside why not have a look at the fame hungry tabloid reporter who will do anything to further his career. You’ll find him just beside the heartless hospital manager. The fun never ends on the John Q cliché-a-thon.

Every single character in this film is a cardboard cut out without a single original bone in their bodies. This is all the more sad when you consider the cast that this train wreck managed to attract. Denzel Washington, James Woods, Anne Heche, Robert Duvall, Ray Liotta, that’s a stellar cast in anyone’s book. What on earth are they doing in this? Sure, they all perform well and they should be congratulated for doing so with 2-D characters and what can only be described as a terrible script.

The script is the worst kind of cheese. The actual intention behind the film is honourable. There is no doubt that the healthcare system in the US sucks. I am grateful to live in the UK where everybody is entitled to free healthcare regardless of their monetary status. But, John Q takes this worthy issue and dresses it with the worst kind of overly melodramatic cheese that would seem bad even on a daytime made for TV movie. You will find better examples of this issue being tackled on the TV show ER.

The film also fancies itself as something of an action movie, but fails at every conceivable moment to deliver the goods. The scene with a sniper attempting to take out John Q is just laughable. On top of this, the movie is clearly attempting to be some kind of modern day ‘Dog Day Afternoon’, but again fails at every step. There is zero tension because we know that there is no way that John Q is going to hurt anyone, it’s just not going to happen.

John Q’s heart is in the right place and the acting talent is out of the top drawer, but the execution is all wrong. Avoid this film at all costs, get out the TV guide and see what time ER is on next. Trust me you’ll thank me.



See John Q if you enjoy – Cruel and unusual torture.

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