John Q is a 2002 American thriller film directed by Nick Cassavetes. The film follows John Quincy Archibald (Denzel Washington), a father and husband whose son is diagnosed with an enlarged heart and then finds out he is unable to receive a Organ transplant because HMO insurance will not cover it; therefore, he decides to hold up the hospital and force them to do it. It has been compared to films such as the original Die Hard, Dog Day Afternoon and The Negotiator.
A careless driver in a white BMW weaves dangerously in and out of traffic while driving on a curvy, mountainous road. While attempting to pass a truck, she is clipped by another, oncoming truck, swerves, then watches helplessly as the truck she attempted to pass forcefully impacts her car.
John Quincy Archibald (Denzel Washington) and his wife Denise (Kimberly Elise) are experiencing financial difficulties. John wakes up to the sound of the family's car being towed outside and unsuccessfully attempts to dissuade him from completing the tow. At his baseball game, the Archibalds witness their young son Michael (Daniel E. Smith) collapse while running the bases. After a series of tests at the hospital, John is informed by Dr. Raymond Turner (James Woods) and Rebecca Payne (Anne Heche), a hospital administrator, that Michael has an enlarged heart and will need a transplant. However, because the company he works for dropped John from full-time to part-time, his health insurance has been changed and the new policy does not cover the surgery, leaving them to raise 30% ($75,000) of the $250,000 in order to get their son's name on the donor list. The family tries to raise the money but is only able to come up with a third ($22,000) of the necessary payment. Eventually the hospital gets tired of waiting and decides to release Michael, leading Denise to tell John to "do something". Unwilling to let his child die, John walks into the hospital ER armed with a handgun, gathers hostages, and sets demands: his son's name on the recipient list as soon as possible. The hostage negotiator, Lt. Frank Grimes (Robert Duvall), stands down to let John cool off.
Meanwhile, John and the 11 hostages communicate and learn more about each other. They begin to understand John's situation and support him a little as he ensures each of them receive the treatment they came to the emergency room for. One of them, Miriam (Troy Beyer), is pregnant, and her husband Steve (Troy Winbush) is hoping that their first kid is healthy. A young hostage, Julie (Heather Wahlquist), has a broken arm, and she and her boyfriend Mitch (Shawn Hatosy) claim that a car crash caused it, but due to some holes in their story, John and another hostage, Lester (Eddie Griffin), are able to conclude that the two are lying and that Mitch had actually beaten Julie up. At one point Mitch tries to overpower John but a fed-up Julie helps John and beats Mitch up for his abuse.
After a while, John agrees to release some hostages in return for his son's name being on the list an hour afterward. He releases Steve, Miriam, and a hostage named Rosa (Martha Chaves) with her baby.
The Chicago Chief of Police, Gus Monroe (Ray Liotta), gives a SWAT unit permission to insert a sniper into the building via an air shaft. John is shot but only ends up receiving a minor wound, which is immediately treated. After taking the shot, the sniper's leg falls through the ceiling tiles and an outraged John pulls him out of the air shaft and beats him up before using the bound SWAT policeman as a human shield as he steps outside to the sight of dozens of officers pointing weapons at him as well as a large crowd gathered to support his cause. John demands that his son be brought to the emergency room. The police agree to his demand in exchange for the SWAT sniper.
Once his son arrives, John reveals to the hostages his intention to commit suicide so his heart can be used to save his son. He persuades Dr. Turner to perform the operation thus knowing he will get his license revoked for it, and two of his hostages bear witness to a will stating his last request. John goes to say his last goodbyes to Michael and goes to the operating room. He loads a single bullet into the gun (revealing to the hostages that he only intended to shoot himself) and pulls the trigger but forgets the safety is on. As he holds the gun to his own head a second time and prepares to end his life, his wife is told about a woman killed in a car crash, the one from the white BMW in the opening scene, who happens to have the same blood type as Michael, and has been flown to the hospital for organ recovery. She runs to the emergency room and prevents John from shooting himself, and John allows the hostages to go free. Michael is given the life-saving operation and, after Grimes let him watch the procedure with Denise, John is taken into police custody. Three months later, at his trial, all of the witnesses speak on his behalf. He is later acquitted of charges of attempted murder and armed criminal action, but is found guilty of kidnapping and false imprisonment.
It is never revealed what his sentence for the crime will be, but his lawyer is overheard saying that no judge will give him "more than three to five" and that she will try and get it reduced to two. On his way to jail, Lester says: "John... you're my hero." Michael thanks his father for saving his life, and gives him one of his favorite bodybuilding poses.
- Denzel Washington as John Archibald
- Kimberly Elise as Denise Archibald
- Daniel E. Smith as Michael "Mike" Archibald
- James Woods as Dr. Raymond Turner
- Anne Heche as Rebecca Payne
- Robert Duvall as Lt. Frank Grimes
- Ray Liotta as Chief Gus Monroe
- Shawn Hatosy as Mitch Quigley
- Heather Wahlquist as Julie Byrd
- David Thornton as Jimmy Palumbo
- Laura Harring as Gina Palumbo
- Troy Beyer as Miriam Smith
- Kevin Connolly as Steve Maguire
- Troy Winbush as Steve Smith
- Vanessa Branch as Nurse
- Eddie Griffin as Lester Matthews
- Martha Chaves as Rosa Gonzales
- Larissa Laskin as Dr. Ellen Klein
- Ethan Suplee as Guard Max Conlin
- Obba Babatundé as Sgt. Moody
- Paul Johansson as Tuck Lampley
- Dina Waters as Debby Utley
- Keram Malicki-Sánchez as Freddy B.
- Stephanie Moore as Admitting Nurse
- Gabriela Oltean as Beautiful BMW Driver
Background information and notesEdit
- During shots of the news coverage surrounding the hostage situation in the hospital, a cameo by US senator Hillary Clinton occurs. Sen. Clinton argues for healthcare reform, especially in regards to cases like this one.
- The film was shot in Toronto, Hamilton, Ontario, and Canmore, Alberta, although the story takes place in Chicago.
- The film opened in first place at the box office, taking $23,275,194 during its first weekend. It ended up with a total domestic gross of $71,026,631 and $102,244,770 worldwide.
- In the Blu-ray DVD commentary on the Deleted Scenes with Cassavetes and writer James Kearns, the main theme of the movie was said to be "about a miracle and John's faith in God creating the miracle". They also mentioned how SWAT team advisors for the film related a similar true incident in Toronto where a man (Henry Masuka) took an ER hostage after it would not provide immediate service to his infant son on New Year's Eve 1999. When he exited the ER he was shot and killed and found to be carrying an unloaded pellet gun.
- A character building scene at the beginning of the film was shot in Cambridge, ON at a manufacturing facility owned by Babcock & Wilcox. Washington is shown using a grinder as he stands over a tubesheet destined for a steam generator for a nuclear power generating facility.
- The film received mixed reviews, with a 23% "rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on the 131 critic reviews available on 25 March 2015, the consensus being that "Washington's performance rises above the material, but John Q pounds the audience over the head with its message."
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