John Q. (2002)
Main cast: Denzel Washington (John Quincy Archibald), Robert Duvall (Frank Grimes), James Woods (Dr Raymond Turner), Anne Heche (Rebecca Payne), Eddie Griffin (Lester), Kimberly Elise (Denise Archibald), Shawn Hatosy (Mitch), and Ray Liotta (Police Chief Gus Monroe)
Director: Nick Cassavetes


John Q. ain't got any IQ.

Sorry, I just have to say that, but I'm not kidding about this ridiculous movie's lack of IQ. It even brings out the worst in Denzel Washington, a fine actor if he isn't trying too hard to be the new Social Reform Brother of the Millennium, and gawd, his Malcolm X has nothing on his John Q when it comes to cringe-inducing preachiness.

After his son collapses slow-motion from a heart attack during America's favorite wholesome pastime - a baseball game, John Q realizes that, being the Middle Class Superhero that he is, he has to raise money to pay off the Evil Hospital People who wouldn't operate on his son. But alas, $6,000 is not enough. Anne Heche's evil, smoking character says, "Your son may not live much longer. You might want to make it a happy time," as if this movie's inept equation of smoking as evil isn't obvious enough.

Alas, this is the last straw for our hero. He grabs a gun! He takes everyone in the hospital hostage! At least, I think it's a hospital, but it could've been the Stereotype Barn for all I know. Because let's see, there's your usual "I'm this close to having a baybeee!" pregnant cows, silly girls, abusive jocks, evil doctors, ticky old people, and other stock characters you find in crappy movies like John Q.. In case you don't know that Police is evil too, especially White ones, we have the Evil Police Chief - played by Ray Liotta, and you can't get more of a caricature than having Ray Liotta playing a villain, can you? - coming in with a permanent sneer and an uniform decorated with what seems like a million medals. Someone's been watching too many Ja Rule music videos.

Maybe there's a genuine issue here that transcends American concerns: the expensive medical services that continue to elude the middle-class and their poorer brethens. Hell, even if they have drugs for AIDS, cancer, and Alzheimer's today, you can bet that only the really rich can afford them. The rest of us can play the lottery. If the government offers a medical service lottery, that is.

But instead of focusing on this issue that it uses as its premise, John Q. quickly shifts gears to glamorize stupidity and inept storytelling. The hostages here seem to be enjoying a stay in Holiday Inn instead of being caught in a hostage situation. Of course, in a movie like this, John Q. doesn't shoot anybody, oh no. He's a hero, you know. Blah blah blah. Denzel Washington, however, seems to think that he's preaching a very important message to the masses, and I cringe to see him in full messiah mode. When Washington is overzealous in wanting to be Hollywood's Best Role Model, he at best induces me to bend over the toilet bowl and puke my guts out. Yeah, yeah, the Black community needs role models, et cetera, but dial that holy messiah airs down, man!

Of course, poor Washington misses the point completely. John Q. isn't a movie to change society's views on people. Unlike more interesting takes on society's inequality that I've seen - Dog Day Afternoon or even White Man's Burden - John Q. is just about a dumb twit with a gun and the morons cheering him on.

Rating: 40


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