Screenwriter James Kearns brought a script to Hollywood with more than the intent to entertain; he brought it ready to make a political statement against the HMO.
Although the script does pose a valid point that lawmakers are actually looking into as a result of this film, it is far too melodramatic.
It traces the steps of what a man will do in order to save the life of his boy when John Q. Archibald (Denzel Washington) takes a hospital hostage. Kearns did a great job at building Washington’s character up to the breaking point after he explored all other options to raise the money for his son’s needed surgery. But the hostages ended up being an expected variety that most movies are supplied with in a hostage situation. The only thing that can take your mind of this predictably written cast is the well-acted comic relief given by Eddie Griffin (“Double Take”).
The melodrama hits us with the statements continually made throughout the movie-bashing of the HMO. It seemed that Kearns was ready to make a strong statement; yet it was so biased that all we hear throughout is how horrible health care providers and hospital staff can be. A scene where a young new ER doctor confronts the skilled cardiologist, played by James Wood (“Any Given Sunday”) provides an argument against the HMO but Wood brings forth no retort or defense for the health care provider and proves this script to be a one-sided argument.
Besides the continually slanderous comments against the insurance company, the rest of the movie is tainted with characters teetering on the brink of hilarity. Anne Heche (“Six Days and Seven Night, Return to Paradise”) once again delivers an awkward and uneven performance only this time as a hospital administrator with no heart; Ray Liotta’s (Field of Dreams, Hannibal) character was written as such an egotistical, arrogant and pompous man that he became laughable. Not even Liotta’s talent could save that character.
So why is this film worth the money to see it? It’s because although some of the characters are contrived and embarrassing to watch, several performers saved the poorly written dialogue. Robert Duvall (The Godfather I and II) saved his character much like he did in Deep Impact and Falling Down, and Denzel Washington again delivers a heartfelt and convincing performance. Washington put so much emotion and raw energy into this role he took somewhat poor material and made it shine, primarily in his farewell speech to his son. Seeing that the relationship between John Q. and his son is ninety percent of this script and Washington is on the screen through ninety percent of film, the majority of this film was very strong. But this does not negate the fact the writing and actions during the situation were done poorly.
Over all the controversy, at the end of the movie Bill Maher (Politically Incorrect) says it best, “We bring this on ourselves. We all say we want the socialized health care but when it comes down to it, none of us offer to pay for it.” And over all the cliched characters and dialogue, Washington’s performance gets an A and possible will receive a few award nominations for it. However, the movie in whole gets a B-, like it or not.
Other movies with Denzel Washington; Glory*, Malcolm X, The Preacher’s Wife, The Siege, Cry Freedom, The Hurricane, Bone Collector, Training Day.
More with Robert Duvall; Tender Mercies*, Apocalypse Now, The Apostle, Gone in 60 Seconds, A Civil Action, The Scarlet Letter, Sling Blade, Godfather I and II.
More with James Wood; Ghosts of Mississippi, Another Day in Paradise, Virgin Suicides, General’s Daughter, Riding in Cars with Boys, The Hard Way
* is for Academy Award Winning roles.