003797Reviews & Counting
John Q
DVD disk
10.05.2004 By: Mike Sampson
John Q order
Nick Cassavetes

Denzel Washington
Anne Heche
James Woods


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A young boy desperately needs a heart transplant to survive - a surgery his blue-collar father (Washington) can't afford. After insurance denies his claims for coverage, he attempts a few legitimate ways to raise the money. When they fail, he opts for the most desperate option of all - barging into the hospital with a gun and demanding that his son be put on the donor list. Melodrama ensues...
If JOHN Q were cast with say...Richard Dean Anderson instead of Denzel Washington and Melissa Gilbert instead of Anne Heche, this film never would've made it to theaters. It would've premiered on some Tuesday night on CBS with a few commercial interruptions. Yup, this is your classic made-for-TV movie, complete with the overwrought melodrama, forced sentimentality and lame attempt at making a point about a serious issue. The cast, filled with Oscar winners and nominees, isn't given much to work with here and only the always wonderful Washington rises above the stink (and this isn't even one of his better performances). James Woods reverts to the type of character he's played 100 times before as the snarky doctor who refuses his surgical services. And speaking of "they've played this character 100 times before" we have Robert Duvall as a calm police negotiator working to get John without incident. All the characters here are one-note. It's as if they never developed beyond the initial character descriptions.

It's actually hard to point out precisely where the film went wrong. Yes, the script is terrible, yes, the acting is subpar and I suppose it can be summed up best by saying the directing was just plain bad. A good director can make a great movie from a bad script (see SPIDER-MAN). Here, director Cassavetes gives in to the shoddy script work and it seems as if there's just a point and shoot methodology going on. I think Cassavetes thought this film would be DOG DAY AFTERNOON with heart, but it has NONE of the traits that made that film a winner. Ultimately, the film falls victim to far too many movie cliches to be a success. It has a decent premise but doesn't have anyone aboard bringing it all together. Like another hospital tear-jerker PATCH ADAMS, this film tries too hard to manipulate the audience into feeling sympathy for the main characters instead of presenting them in an honest, endearing way that would have been far more successful. Maybe some day, as it repeats on the Lifetime network, it'll find its target audience...holding a wrinkled tissue...looking for a good cry.
New Line apparently had enough faith in JOHN Q to give it their top-notch DVD treatment, complete with their trademarked Infinifilm technology. If you've never seen an Infinifilm disc before (they've been issued with THIRTEEN DAYS and RUSH HOUR 2), it basically pops up a little logo while the film is running, on which you can click and learn more information on the scene you're watching. Pretty cool, huh? Cool, yes, but more fitting if it's a movie you've seen already. It worked great for RUSH HOUR 2 so the interruptions of the film weren't a major plot distraction. Here, I had a hard time getting into the film in the first place and then I get these features coming in and getting in the middle of the movie. Not the fault of the disc by any stretch of the imagination, just a warning to those about to watch. Like I said, I do enjoy the concept behind Infinifilm and this movie lends itself well to the technology. There's a lot of background information available on this very real issue of healthcare reform and it's offered up here.

If you want to enjoy all the features on this disc, you're gonna have to watch the film more than once. There's no way you could watch the film, use the Infinifilm and listen to the audio commentary all at once. So you may have to take another go round JOHN Q to listen to the commentary from Cassavetes, the producer, the writer, the cinematographer and the actress who plays Denzel's wife. You can see that they all made a huge impression on me because I can't even remember their names. The commentary isn't as bad as I thought it might be, considering the movie. It's not the best I've ever heard, but certainly not the worst either.

Next up are two featurettes, "Fighting for Care" and "Behind the Scenes of JOHN Q." "Fighting" is the longer of the two (just over a half-hour) and as the title suggests, discusses the problem at the core of the film - the lack of adequate healthcare for average Americans. It's a well put-together piece that says more in 30 minutes than the film doesn't say at all in almost two hours. The "Behind the Scenes" feature is exactly what it describes. About fifteen minutes of the traditional on-set interviews, "how'd they do it?" and other stuff. Nothing really new here.

As far as standard fare goes, this disc includes the usual: we've got deleted scenes, trailers, cast/crew biographies and production info. The deleted scenes include six in all and they're decently sized. Unlike some deleted scenes that can run a measly 30 seconds, these actually add up to something and aren't complete throwaways. Believe it or not, there's actually some decent stuff here, as where it's usually a wasteland. There are DVD-ROM features included on the disc as well, including the full script available for download or print and a link to the original website but not much else of substance.
JOHN Q could've been a much better movie, but it could have been a worse movie as well. A decent concept that had the right actors wasn't executed properly. Possibly a different director and a more polished script could've helped, but that point is moot. This is the JOHN Q we got and this is what we must live with. The movie is pretty much a waste but the attention paid to this DVD pays off. In fact, they could've just left the movie off the disc and I would've enjoyed this DVD just the same. I could think of worse ways to spend an evening.
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