Volume 95, Issue 77

Tuesday, February 19, 2002
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Britney's Crossroads is littered with roadkill

Tomei puts out In the Bedroom

Nothing like propaganda

A trip to the hospital can't save John Q

A trip to the hospital can't save John Q

John Q

Denzel Washington, Robert Duvall, James Woods, Ray Liotta, Daniel E. Smith

Directed By: Nick Cassavetes

One 1/2 stars (out of five)

By Brent Carpenter
Gazette Staff

On the surface, John Q's all-star cast and intriguing premise make it an appealing choice for moviegoers of all ages.

What gradually unfolds however, is a manipulative and blatantly one-sided criticism of the United States health care system so tangled up in its own pretensions that it loses all plausibility.

Denzel Washington plays John Quincy Archibald, a working-class man with a beautiful wife Denise (Kimberly Elise) and young son Mike (played by newcomer Daniel E. Smith).

One day during a little league game, Mike collapses and is rushed to the hospital. There it's discovered he has an enlarged heart and will die without a transplant. Even worse, the Archibalds don't have the money to cover the operation and are told to take Mike home and make the best of the time they have left.

After attempting numerous unsuccessful appeals, John takes the emergency room hostage and demands treatment for his son.

If John Q has one thing going for it, it's that it contains yet another powerhouse performance from Denzel Washington. Rising above his material, Washington masks his heartbreaking situation with a desperate and furious intensity and he turns a poorly-written protagonist into a hero everyone can root for.

If only the rest of the movie were up to his level.

The remainder of the thinly-constructed cast and their ridiculous situations transform an interesting idea into the Scary Movie of hostage dramas. There isn't one character you haven't already seen a 1,000 times over.

You have the arrogant and self-serving surgeon Dr. Turner (James Woods), the good-natured veteran cop Grimes (Robert Duvall) and the trigger-happy police captain Monroe (Ray Liotta). And, what would a cast of stereotypes be without the token black guy (Eddie Griffin) as comic relief.

Defenders of the film will claim the issue of health care is merely a plot device used to push forth the narrative. They'll argue the film is really about a final act of desperation by a caring father. But these people would be feeding you nothing more than cover-your-ass, PR babble.

Why else would the audience be subjected to clips of speeches by the likes of President George W. Bush, Hillary Clinton and Jesse Jackson. It's all engineered to make the audience scream bloody murder and call for a change. The problem is that by failing to present both sides of the equation, the film's arguments lose all credibility.

As a critical take on the status of health care in the U.S., the film fails to present any view other than that of the working class. Do yourself a favour and steer clear of John Q, for it is nothing more than glitzy, star-studded propaganda.

If the film somehow manages to grab you and forces you to contemplate the insufficiency of health care, don't worry – you're in Canada, we're all eligible.

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Copyright The Gazette 2002