John Q (2002)
Directed by Nick Cassavetes
Written by James Kearns
Starring: Denzel Washington, James Woods, Robert Duvall, Anne Heche, Ray Liotta
John’s (Washington) whole life is turned upside down when his son is diagnosed with a terminal heart condition. When money stands in the way of a lifesaving operation for his son, John takes drastic measures to try to get help.
This 2002 film was written by James Kearns and directed by Nick Cassavetes (My Sister’s Keeper). The movie stars Oscar winners Denzel Washington (Remember the Titans) and Robert Duvall (The Godfather). James Woods (The Onion Field), Anne Heche (Donnie Brasco), and Ray Liotta (Field of Dreams) are also featured.
This is a drama with a unique driving force behind it. The film centers on the questions of right and wrong as they relate to the actions of the characters. This provides a number of interesting scenarios that play out simultaneously throughout the film. The film features great dialogue that feels honest. This is so important since the film relies on the ability to create a relationship between the characters and the audience. From a dramatic standpoint, this film only stumbles with the payoffs. The ending feels like a compromise more than a clear choice.
Outside of the drama, this story carries a clear agenda throughout. (I won’t go into my own opinions.) The question of the way the healthcare system is run is on the surface of this entire film. This sometimes feels a bit overdone, and even gets a little pushy at times. Luckily the performances are able to balance this one out quite a bit. Overall this film has a good script, but some of the heavy-handedness gets in the way of what should be great drama.
The acting in this movie is great, and in some ways improves the issues with the story. Denzel Washington was a great choice for the lead in this one. He does such a good job connecting with the mix of emotions his character is going through. He also plays his role with confidence, which really sells him as a struggling man. James Woods also does a good job with his part in this movie. Woods has a natural hubris that makes his character seem very real.
Robert Duvall also does a good job in this one. Unfortunately, his role is weakly written and some big opportunities to make something good feel missed. In the end he often feels like a weak stereotype rather than an original character. Anne Heche and Ray Liotta also do good work in this one. Unfortunately they’re also victims of the writing. Overall, this movie features good acting that makes the most of the script.
This movie doesn’t do anything special from a production standpoint. The camera work, costumes, locations, sets, and other aspects all handle business just fine. The score for the film also does a nice job highlighting the film. As a whole, it’s hard to find fault in the work done to create the visuals or the sound. The real issues all go back to the story. The message of the film is slammed into the audience at every turn. (It’s almost as bad as Tomorrowland.) This takes away from the powerful drama that should’ve been the center of the film. Fans of the actors might still enjoy this one, but I wouldn’t rush to see it. I give this one 2 out of 5 stars.