Prayer Focus
Movie Review

John Q

MPAA Rating: PG-13-Rating (MPAA) for violence, language and intense thematic elements

Reviewed by: Eric Schmidt

Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens Adults
Action / Drama
1 hr. 58 min.
Year of Release:
Denzel Washington in “John Q” Kimberly Elise and Denzel Washington in “John Q”

Starring: Denzel Washington, Robert Duvall, Anne Heche, James Woods, Eddie Griffin | Directed by: Nick Cassavetes | Produced by: Mark Burg, Oren Koules | Written by: James Kearns | Distributor: New Line Cinema

In today’s American society, our health care insurance dilemma is outrageous, and “John Q” had the potential to make not one moviegoer unaware of how serious this problem really is.

The film, directed by Nick Cassevetes, begins with a shot of an open highway. The shot ends with a horrific car accident where a beautiful woman is killed—and it is obvious then this woman will be instrumental in making everything good and well at the end of the film. We then jump to the lives of John Q. Archibald (Denzel Washington), his wife Kimberly, and his son Michael. One morning, the family car is seized by Michael’s insurance company. John, it seems, has been reduced to twenty hours a week in the factory where he works. As of then, the family is completely uncertain about how their financial situation will stand.

They do, however, try to go back to their normal lives, which consist of attending their community church and Michael’s baseball games. Things take a sudden turn, though, when the seemingly healthy boy collapses while running to second base one Sunday afternoon. He is rushed to a quality Chicago hospital, where it is determined that Michael’s heart will soon be useless, as it is already three times normal size. Hospital administrators (James Woods and Anne Heche) give the family two choices: either pay for a heart transplant which may or may not succeed, or try to make Michael’s life as quality as possible during the months or weeks he has left to live.

As most families would, the Archibald’s decide within seconds that a transplant is their ONLY option, but are then hit with the hard reality that because of John’s lack of work, his insurance has been dropped from full-time to part time. The hospital “does everything in their power” to help Michael and his family. Neighbors help the family raise $22,000, but this figure is nowhere near the down payment of $75,000 necessary to get Michael’s name on a donor’s list. John has exhausted all of his options by the morning when the hospital is going to release Michael from treatment. His wife’s pleas for John to “do something!” cause him to buy a gun, lock down the hospital, kill the elevator power, and hold everybody hostage, threatening to hostage situation negotiator Frank Grimes (Robert Duvall, who makes even the worst movies watchable) that there will “be some dead bodies in here” if Michael has not been issued a new heart by 5:15 that evening.

All the while I kept thinking, “Is this really what a father would do?” and “John Q” almost made me believe it, until the film took on your standard plot for any movie about a hostage situation. When the movie was solely about a father’s love, I almost bought it; when it came time for the first gunshot opportunity on the gunman, I thought “Maybe not.” When a computer genius hacked into an emotional telephone call between John and his wife and broadcast it live over television, this movie had turned from us rooting from Michael to rooting for John Q. When comic relief started to take its toll in the form of conversations between John and the eclectic mix of hostages he has taken under his belt, I wish I would have walked out. Even the final climactic minutes, where John debates whether he should kill himself and give his heart to Michael do not undo everything else thrown in unnecessarily.

Again, this movie had the potential to say something that would hit medical insurance companies deep, but instead it turns into a laughable, completely unplausable film. If the intention of the filmmakers, who incidently spent eight years writing the script (it seemed like it was eight days), was to send a message to insurance companies, they would have done well to skip the entire hostage situation and make this into a heart-breaking courtroom drama. I get the sickening feeling that the hostage crisis might have just been created as a draw to teenage audiences.

From a Christian standpoint, I suppose the film glorifies violence as a means of solving a problem. There also is plenty of strong profanity, including two “F” words, 10 “s” words, and many, many uses of the Lord’s name in vain by many of the hostages. There is also a side plot that in no uncertain terms establishes a hostage as a wife-beater.

However, I did like how in the final waning moments of the situation, John realized that a miracle from God was his last hope.

But, in retrospect, this film does not have the potential to offend simply because of certain anti-Christian elements, but also because it takes a very serious issue and through the usage of unneeded material and plot lines, makes it into a farce. The sad thing is that intelligent filmmakers won’t want to touch this worthy material for some time now.

Viewer Comments
Positive—Though there were some non-Christian elements about this movie, there were many more things that I appreciated about it. I appreciated how the main character first went to all the appropriate and legal measures to try to solve his problem. Once all of those things failed him, it was only then that he took matters into his own hands. Then after he took matters into his own hands, I appreciated that he got the punishment that he rightfully deserved. This movie should teach others that you should always try to do the right thing first, but if that does not work, sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands, but be willing to face the consequences for your actions. I would recommend this movie to others, but bring a box of tissues because it is emotional!
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4]
Sharae, age 24
Positive—This was a great movie! One of the best I’ve seen in a long time! Although, I don’t really approve of some of the language they used in the movie, I would absolutely recommend this movie!
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 3½]
Kelsey, age 14
Positive—Good message about the Health care system rip off esp. HMO’s. I enjoyed the suspense created by the director. Very emotional moments by Denzel. Good family movie. There may have been some profanity, but trust me based on what is out there it’s great. Only one scene that I find I wouldn’t let my grandson see was in the emergency room when the girlfriend kicked her boyfriend in the private area. I think also this shows what pressure the Black man can experience and the influence the Black woman has on our men. Overall, great family film…My Ratings: [Better than Average / 5]
Cliff, age 49
Positive—I think this review exaggerated several things wrong with this movie. Its true some of John’s conversations with hostages were completely out of place. The movie did have many higlights though, the acting of Denzel Washington was especially moving and the side characters were exceptional as well. The story brought up many thought provoking themes that face society today. The directing of the movie was equal to that of Count of Monte Cristo, and sometimes exceeded it. The movie was above average however in the end.
My Ratings: [Average / 3½]
L.S.Loewen, age 15
Positive—This movie was one of the best that I had seen in a long time. Just when I cried so hard I thought I would have to leave, it made me laugh again. This really opens up your eyes and makes you really think. Of course, everyone walked out of the theatre asking if their parents would really jeapordize their own life for their’s. It was also a nice break from all the Teen Movies coming out nowadays. This movie was wonderful, and really caught my attention.
My Ratings: [Average / 4]
Spenser, age 14
Positive—This movie was not perfect, but it is nowhere near as bad as the reviewer made it out to be. Everyone involved gave terrific performances. The story holds your attention and keeps you guessing. And you leave the theater feeling as though your time was well spent! I say go see it!
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4]
Rena, age 36
Positive—What a movie this one was. I went to see this film knowing it was good and I was not disappointed one bit. It was a sad yet happy movie. Denzel Washington was a great father in this movie. He was looking over his family before he looked over himself. He wanted his family to have the best. It was a shame that some families go through this. May God bless the people that this happens to in real life.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 5]
Travis, age 15
Positive—Wow this was an amazing movie! I laughed, I cried, and I was on the edge of my seat. I was deeply touched during the part when John is saying goodbye to his son. He tells his son to always tell his mother he loved her and to treat girls like princesses because that’s what they are. At the end… I cried so hard I couldn’t see the movie screen. I didn’t know what was going to happen at the end… I liked the ending… This was an great movie!
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 5]
Chazmine Scott, age 15
Positive—I was invited to see this movie, hoping that it would be very pleasing and something that I wouldn’t be offended by. The last movie that Denzel Washington was in was Training Day, and I heard that was awful. This movie was everything that I hoped for and even more! I was pleased with the performances, the plot was very well thought out by the producers, Denzel Washington completely played his role as John Q. to death, and it was an all around good movie. It taught how strong family bonds are, and shows how not giving up and taking “NO” for an answer shouldn’t even be considered when a family is in jeopardy. I would probably go see this movie again because I enjoyed it so much. But for those of you who haven’t seen it, you might want to take a box of KLEENEX and a soft shoulder to cry on. I’m a guy, and even I broke down when… well, I won’t spoil it for you! If you want a good family oriented movie that has very few swear words and very mild gore (there was about two scenes of blood, and the Lord’s name was taken in vain about 3 times), then this is your movie! This movie also doesn’t overlook the fact of Christian Values that some people/characters have!
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4]
Noah Cowart, age 15
Positive—This was a very very good movie. Me and a whole bunch of friends went to see it and we were at the edge of our seats through the entire movie. There was no sex, and little violence. There was a gory part though when someone was having a heart transplant I closed my eyes for a few seconds. On a christian perspective I think that this movie was good because everyone went to church, and the mother insisted on praying about everything. There wasn’t a lot of vulgarity at all I didn’t notice any of it.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4½]
Christina, age 17
Neutral—I watched this film in awe of the arrogance of American filmmakers. The Movie is essentially one big advertisement for socialized medicine, which is certainly not the answer to our healthcare concerns. First of all no hospital administrator who wants to keep her job would deal with a family the way John and his wife were dealt with and once you’re on a transplant list you are on. As a physician I couldn’t believe the sloppy technical work that went into this film. For example the son has an endotracheal tube in his mouth (a breathing tube) and he talks to his father!!! When you have a breathing tube in your throat you can’t talk. Also the donor was on no life support and the scene of the transplant was a complete joke. The son was not even apparently on a bypass machine during surgery. I say all this to say that Hollywood won’t even get the medical technical details of the film correct and they wish to make some kind of a statement about how we need nationalized healthcare??? What arrogance!!! Go see the film if you want to be entertained. Just be aware that you are paying to see an advertisement produced by people who will spend several million dollars to produce this stuff yet won’t even spend literally almost nothing to get technical advise to make the medical scenes at least look real and they hope to make some kind of statement about American healthcare. PLEASE!!!…
My Ratings: [Average / 1½]
Bob C, age 38
Positive—Designed to illustrate the issues in the so-called health care crisis, this film will prove controversial and perhaps inflammatory. Except for the ending, which is held in suspense as long as possible, the entire basic plot was given away in the theatrical previews. Despite that, and despite the use of “formulas,” it’s quite entertaining. Or perhaps the correct word is “moving.” …The stereotypes are here: the surgeon (James Woods) and administrator (Anne Heche) who care about the money; the Police Chief (Ray Liotta) and media people who care about elections, sound bites and well-set hair; and the hostage negotiator (Robert Duvall) who may actually care about people. The moneymaking function of HMOs is accurately rehearsed (for our benefit of course) during a break in the action; and in the wrap-up there’s a montage of people like Jan Leno and Larry King playing themselves and discussing the Archibald case (the last time I saw that device used was in “Dave”). My personal opinion: HMOs and their interference in the doctor-patient relationship are the worst thing that’s ever happened to medicine; but socialized health care (which the screenwriters seem to be pushing for) isn’t the answer either. Content Warnings: There are violent and bloody scenes of several types, resulting in one or more deaths. Also some non-violent blood, such as harvesting a dead person’s heart and transplanting it into someone else. A lot of language including a few uses of f*, cursing, and bodily function language. If the viewer has no idea what the outcome will be, the film will be a nail-biter pretty much all the way through. John and his wife are shown in church and they make references to being Christians. Of course the taking of hostages isn’t a good example of Christian behavior, although it turns out that John is less of a bad guy and more in tune with Biblical principles than he at first appears to be (I can’t discuss that any more without giving away the plot twists). The film intends to personalize the issues raised by showing just one man, who represents all of us, pushed to the limit. That way we’ll ask ourselves what we would have done. Interesting question. I recommended the film for mature audiences.
My Ratings: [Average / 4]
Brett Willis, age 51
Movie Critics
…does not shy away from revealing the Christian background of John and Denise. There are also Christian references connected to three other important characters. The bad news, however, is that the movie’s Christian worldview is spoiled by plenty of inappropriate foul language and by a biased, socialist message in favor of a national health care system…
Dr. Tom Snyder, Movieguide
…frequent foul language and… theme of solving problems by breaking the law and endangering lives…
Preview Family Movie and TV Review
…2 F-words, 2 obscene hand gestures, 3 sexual references, 10 scatological terms, 12 anatomical terms, 33 mild obscenities, 4 religious profanities, 9 religious exclamations…