As congenitally flawed as the heart of its titular character's son, "John Q" is both a ridiculous and poorly told revenge fantasy about the HMO and hospital industry, and a perverted cliché of a fanfare for the common man.
Of course, when we hear the title, "John Q," our pop culture-trained minds reflexively complete it with the surname of "Public." Denzel Washington's (Academy Award Best Actor nominee for "Training Day") John Quincy Archibald is that overqualified, underemployed -- and more importantly for this flick, underinsured -- blue-collar everyman of the Midwestern Rust Belt who was already old news during Bush senior's recession.
TV writer James Kearns obviously manipulates his hero as a puppet-pawn through a hackneyed melodramatic plot. It's the kind of screenwriting by numbers taught in mail-order courses. When John's adorably clever son, Mike (Daniel E. Smith), collapses in heart failure while rounding the bases during a baseball game, John discovers his medical insurance won't finance a life-saving heart transplant. After John and his fiercely loyal wife, Denise (Kimberly Elise), are stymied by the requisite amount of stumbling blocks, he does what we'd all do in the same situation: Get a gun and hold the hospital's ER workers hostage until they promise his son a new heart.
And "John Q" becomes an urban folk hero in the process (the crowds outside the hospital cheer as if waiting to get a glimpse of a pop star). But remember: Murderous criminals, real and fictional, from Jesse James to Hannibal Lecter have also won the hearts of the masses -- and they were psychopaths. Regardless of the importance of this movie's bungled subject matter, director Nick Cassavetes' typically muddled storytelling -- and Washington's incredible (and undeserved) performance -- "John Q" raises a fundamental question: Post-Sept. 11, do we really want to make a gun-wielding, by-any-means-necessary kidnapper our national hero?
We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Orlando Weekly. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Orlando Weekly, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Orlando Weekly works for you, and your support is essential.
Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Central Florida.
Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.
Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Orlando’s true free press free.