This 2002 movie with Denzel Washington, Robert Duvall, James Woods and Anne Heche succeeds (kind of) because of the caliber of the actors only.
The story is preposterous. John Q Archibald (Denzel Washington) is a blue-collar worker on reduced hours in the factory whose son collapses during a baseball game. The frantic parents find out that their son has a heart disease that leaves only two choices, an urgent transplant or death within months, perhaps even weeks.
When John Q finds out that his insurance does not cover a $250,000 heart transplant, he tries everything he can think of until he is eventually backed into a corner and on a whim holds the emergency room hostage at gunpoint, demanding a heart transplant for his son.
The message was a valid one in 2002 and still is today: the American health care system sucks. It’s a good message that rings true.
But there are some serious problems with the movie:
The assumption that it is even possible for one man to hold a hospital emergency room hostage with a single gun is laughable.
Thinking that it might be possible to demand a transplant, requiring that a surgeon, an anesthesiologist and a full operating room staff can do an operation of the intensity of a heart transplant while a gunman is waiting in a corner, is preposterous.
The thought that a heart can be found that matches the boy within any reasonable time given is ludicrous.
John Q commits an act of terrorism in an attempt to get healthcare he thinks he is entitled to. The movie makes us root for him and by the end, the terrorist, poor guy, is the victim. This is especially poignant at a time when we just had a lunatic gunman mow down a crowd of people in Tucson, presumably because of political and ideological motives.
In a civilized society it is never acceptable to hurt others for one’s own personal gain, let alone for political or ideological ideas. The movie John Q comes frighteningly close to stating the opposite: It’s okay to resort to terrorism if you are really convinced that your views are right.
Despite all this, John Q is actually an entertaining movie. Just leave your brain in a corner and just allow yourself to be consumed by the story.