It’s tough being a black man in America, especially when the Man has taken away your car, your job, and denied you health insurance. It’s especially tough for John Q. (Denzel Washington), whose son collapses on a baseball field as if to to test his father’s last nerve and penny. Cue violins. Sans help from the Brady kids, John Q. goes about town trying to raise money for his son’s $250,000 heart operation only to run into extra-sticky red tape. With the Evil medical community about to throw little Mikey Archibald out with the morning syringes and Patch Adams nowhere in sight, Big Daddy decides to pull a Schwarzenegger (“This hospital’s under new management now”) by taking an emergency room hostage. Sporting an unexplained handgun, Drama Q is faced with the added burden of an ineffectual, lily-white hospital staff. Stock characters arrive: HMO-dissing ER patients, guffawing brothers, don’t-shed-a-tear hospital administrators and a bad copper wanting to give it to the uppity terrorist. John Q. is give-it-to-the-Man bullshit that dishes out its race cards with careless pretense. More laughable than the egregious Jesus/cross imagery are the slow-mo panic shots—John Q. Jr. almost makes it to the next base when his little ticker goes cuckoo. John Q. may make a pittance but he’s a man of God, which makes it especially easy for picketers to cheer the desperate-father-cum-warrior. New Line hopes post-9/11 audiences will also be able to put aside their beef with terrorism and sympathize with Denzel Washington’s black-man-against-the-system. Director Nick Cassavetes, oblivious to the implications of his shameless finale, says John Q. is the simple story of a family in trouble. Think of John Q. as Hollywood’s one-note answer to Jean Valjean. If Victor Hugo were alive, they’d have him cheering the film’s brain-dead morality with a resounding “booya.”
- New Line Cinema
- 118 min
- Nick Cassavetes
- James Kearns
- Denzel Washington, Robert Duvall, Kimberly Elise, Eddie Griffin, Shawn Hatosy, Anne Heche, Ray Liotta, Daniel E. Smith, James Woods
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