John Q. (SE)/ D+,A-
New Line/2002/116/ANA 1.85

     John Q. is often simplistically amateurish. Cliché close-ups coupled with some of the most abominable dialogue imaginable is almost embarrassing at times. Sadly, the script is no more than weak soap opera. There's a moment when the emergency room nurse, protective of a doctor, chimes in with a line like, "Doctor, I won't let you ruin your career." Even in a "General Hospital" type soap they'd exorcise a line like that. There are other moments equally embarrassing. At times the film plays like broad comedy. The director's cutting emphasizes these moments, and I don't really think he's looking for the humor in the situation. It's heavy-handed, pedantic movie making. There's a drone-like effort to take the US health care system to task, but it's not effective. Characters like the hospital administrator are so calculatingly cold they don't even mount a semblance of reality.

A family in crisis. ©New Line

     There are times when John Q. feels like it wants to break into a Dog Day Afternoon type chant. Certainly, the staging is similar in ways, with almost celebratory crowds gathered outside to witness the real life drama of a man driven to extremes. Even the early montage depicting John Q.'s struggle to find help for his daughter and to raise money is patently artificial. The situation is so unrealistic. Counting the dollars is simply annoying, and cloying. Many of the scenes play like infomercials.
     Yes, there are scenes that play to the heartstrings. One feels for the family and the little boy, but at the same time everything seems so false and set-up. There are actually emergency room speeches in which various hostages try to address concerns about our health care system. Give me a break please, and I don't mean my arm. It's preaching of the lowest order. Even the ending isn't satisfying. It rings false like everything else in this movie.
    It's hard not to like a Denzel Washington performance. There are moments in John Q. when Washington has strong, magnetic speeches, and he cries pretty well too. He's always a strong presence in every film he makes. Washington's acting consistency is almost uncanny. Yet, his task as John Q. Archibald is an insurmountable one. It's a tougher task than even John Q's. John Q. only has to try to save his boy. Denzel has to try to save this movie. No way.  Even Robert Duvall, one of my favorite actors seems to have his hands ties by a lackluster role as a hostage negotiator. James Woods plays the heart surgeon buried under such poorly set up situations that he seems at a loss at various times.
     John Q. is a very fine looking DVD. It's very sharp. Perhaps there a couple of scenes that are not optimally sharp. There's no edginess to the picture. Color is outstanding. Depth of image is very good. Shadow detail is excellent. It's a punchy looking picture with lots of life to it. Various lighting situations are effectively translated to DVD. Good, engaging DTS sound track. Surround details are effectively places. Some of the sound is absolutely annoying in the way it attempts to emphasize emotion or crisis.
     New Line has packaged John Q. as one of its Infinifilm releases. There's two original documentaries, one focusing on the health care system, another on the film production. Audio commentary is provided by director Nick Cassavetes, screenwriter James Kearns, producer Mark Burg and director of photography Roger Stoffers. Deleted scenes are also included with commentary from the director.

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