Powerful issues and strong emotions mixed with poor character development and mediocre dialogue make for a second-rate movie one that just can”t live up to its potential. “John Q,” directed by Nick Cassavetes, falls into this category. The emotional impact of the story is the one thing at which it truly succeeds, simply because the issues addressed are painful and often extremely controversial. “John Q” poignantly addresses the corruption inherent in our health care system and how a lack of humanism can only lead to anger and bitter struggle.
After John Q. Archibald (Denzel Washington) and his wife Denise (Kimberly Elise) see their son, Mike (Daniel E. Smith), suddenly collapse at his little league game, they soon learn the devastating news that he is in dire need of a heart transplant, and that without one, he will have only months, maybe just weeks, to live. Although the family struggles financially Denise works at the supermarket and John was recently laid off from a heavy machinery plant John knows he has full insurance coverage and that his son will surely be put on the donor recipient list. However, the transplant costs $250,000, and John is denied full coverage, due to his being unemployed. The insurance will pay out just $20,000, which does little to alleviate the problem of needing a 30 percent down payment. While struggling with the system and doing everything in his power to raise the money (selling everything his family owns, getting church collections, etc ), his son is getting closer and closer to death.
Surprisingly, this film is not all that predictable, simply because the story doesn”t seem that unrealistic, so it”s actually quite difficult to know what could happen. The problem is not that the pace is slow rather, it is that some of the actors, except for Washington, do a horrible job with their characters. It”s as if they are reciting an instruction manual verbatim and have absolutely no clue just how important their parts really are.
Actors have lines for a reason. But in “John Q” several of the supporting characters, like Anne Heche (Rebecca Payne), the one who has the authority to put little Mike on the donor list, or James Woods, who plays the insincere Dr. Turner, make you flinch in response to their crucial scenes. What a waste. It”s hard to take such an emotionally impacting film seriously when the doctor who coldly denies John Q. any sympathy for his situation, all of a sudden proclaims in a later scene something along the lines of, “That”s it! I will help you. To hell with my career!” (The wording is exaggerated, but the stupidity of the line is not).
When John Q. locks himself up in the hospital emergency room and holds it hostage until the doctors put Mike”s name on the list, his action stirs national attention, and practically the entire city surrounds the hospital, waiting for his next move.
One may be impressed with the way this film depicts the harshness in which humans can deal with one another other and just how selfish and greedy this society can feel. Also, how far will one go to save his child”s life? “John Q” definitely pushes this question to the limit, and the thrilling, emotional ride may just bring you to tears. However, the dialogue is disappointingly unimpressive, and it hinders the overall satisfaction that you were just so close to attaining.