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John Q.

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: John Q.

Starring: Denzel Washington, Robert Duvall
Director: Nick Cassavetes
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 118 Minutes
Release Date: February 2002
Genres: Drama, Suspense

*Also starring: Anne Heche, Ray Liotta, Shawn Wayne Hatosy, Kimberly Elise, Eddie Griffin, Ethan Suplee, Obba Babatunde, Laura Harring, James Woods

Review by Steve Rhodes
3 stars out of 4

"Months, weeks, maybe days," that's all John Q's son has left in Nick Cassavetes's JOHN Q. At a time of recession and with unemployment rising, JOHN Q is a story that resonates. Starring one of the world's finest actors, Denzel Washington, as John Q. Archibald, the formula film survives its needless mistakes in scripting and becomes a powerful motion picture in spite of itself.

When we first meet poor, blue collar worker John, his car is being repossessed. This will prove to be the least of his problems. John's son, Mike (Daniel E. Smith), needs a heart transplant, or he will die. Since he has insurance, John figures, incorrectly, that this will be no problem. The new policy to which his company has recently reassigned him, however, doesn't cover such expensive procedures. Washington pours his heart and soul into the role, and, if you aren't quickly rooting for John, you may need a heart transplant yourself since yours must be too small. The endearing and close father-son relationship is touching and completely genuine. Every son should be so lucky as to have such a father, and vice versa.

When no one will pay for the heart transplant -- after John fights through a Kafkaesque maze of uncaring bureaucrats -- he flips. Holding everyone in the emergency room hostage at gunpoint, he makes only one demand to the cops: Put his son's name on the heart transplant donor list.

James Woods is terrific, as always, as the hospital's arrogant head of cardiac surgery. Robert Duvall plays the cool headed hostage negotiator, and Ray Liotta plays the Chicago Chief of Police, whose every decision is politically motivated.

The script, by television writer James Kearns, is full of problems which would have been easy to fix. John and his wife (Kimberly Elise) are first told of their son's predicament over an enormous wooden boardroom table of the size befitting a large multinational conglomerate. The hospital administrator there, Rebecca Payne (Anne Heche), has an unbelievable heart of solid stone. Rebecca is as rude and condescending as humanly possible towards this family, who has just discovered that their only son will probably be dead soon. (She will, of course, make a miraculous conversion to the good side late in the story.) Other problems include the telegraphing of the conclusion in the opening scene and the ending with a sappy sermon complete with a lecture by Hilary Clinton. These flaws are forgivable, thanks mainly to another superlative performance by Washington.

The best small part of the film is the apt name for the hospital -- Hope Memorial. For most of the movie, it looks to be a memorial to the death of John's hope.

JOHN Q runs 1:58. It is rated PG-13 for "violence, language and intense thematic elements" and would be acceptable for kids around 12 and up.

Copyright 2002 Steve Rhodes

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