A desperate father takes an emergency room hostage
so he can secure a heart transplant for his dying son.
John Q (2002)
Directed by Nick Cassavetes
Written by James Kearns
Starring Denzel Washington, Kimberly Elise, Anne Heche,
Robert Duvall, James Woods, Ray Liotta, Kevin Connolly,
Eddie Griffin, David Thornton, Shawn Hatosy, Daniel E. Smith
John Q got a lot of flack from critics for being too on the nose about its message. Guess what? Our healthcare system sucks. It's not a secret. Films like this spotlight very real situations that some people end up stuck in thanks to a lack of health insurance or even worse, health insurance that won't cover anything that matters. And yes, the film has a tremendously sappy, soap opera-quality ending that would never actually happen in a million years, at least not that quickly. But you know what? I enjoyed the movie. The characters are likable, the situation is extremely tense, and I like when social issues are represented in film.
John Archibald (Washington) and his wife Denise (Elise) are at their wits end. Their son Mikey (Smith) has an enlarged heart and needs a transplant soon or he'll die. The hospital refuses to put him on the donor list because John doesn't have enough money for a down payment. Basically, they're gonna let Mikey die because his parents can't afford an operation. So, John does what any devoted parent would do. He handles it. He takes the ER hostage, doctors and patients alike, and demands an operation for his son. His situation captivates the city, and has people asking who the real bad guy is here. Washington's performance sells the movie. He really commits to the character and has the audience rooting for him the whole time.
John Q is a pretty good movie. The ending, where they happen upon a perfect match heart for Mikey just as John is about to kill himself so they can use his heart, is absolutely over-the-top coincidental. It nearly shatters the realism and unforgiving tone of the film, but in all honesty, you're just happy that they both made it out of this alive. I think the fact that I cared about that at all speaks volumes about the film's quality.