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Police have surrounded the ER where a desperate man holds hostages and demands that the hospital do what his HMO refuses to allow provide an operation for his critically ill son. The media storms the scene and with each passing moment, the man called John Q is becoming a hero of sorts. Academy Award winner* Denzel Washington brings remarkable depth to the title role of this issues-driven thriller featuring an elite cast. Is John Q a vigilante? A heroic father? You decide. But when it comes to his son, John Q wont take “no” for an answer.
For more about John Q and the John Q Blu-ray release, see John Q Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on April 17, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Denzel Washington, Robert Duvall, James Woods, Kimberly Elise, Daniel E. Smith, Anne Heche
Director: Nick Cassavetes
» See full cast & crew
John Q Blu-ray Review
A mediocre mess that finds Washington wallowing in predictability and convention...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, April 17, 2009
John Q should have been a devastating gut-punch; a challenging film that took indecency and greed to task with the same veracity American History X tackled bigotry and hate. Instead, it hobbled off the studio lot; a cautionary tale for filmmakers focused on delivering heavy-handed message points rather than constructing compelling stories or developing authentic characters. When it debuted, critics cried foul and audiences shrugged their shoulders, leaving director Nick Cassavetes' personal passion project to die a slow death on video store shelves across the country. But exactly how did such a promising project go so terribly and utterly wrong? Between nabbing Denzel Washington for a meaty leading role, assembling a fantastic ensemble cast, and pouncing on an issue near and dear to many people's hearts, why did it alienate viewers more and more with every passing scene?
The blame falls squarely on two sets of shoulders: screenwriter James Kearns and Cassavetes himself. Chalk it up to inexperience -- the director has never proven himself to be a nuanced filmmaker, turning in sentimental gumdrops like She's So Lovely and The Notebook for years, and Kearns' most noteworthy resume entry involves penning two episodes of Mr. Belvedere -- but John Q lumbers across the screen begging for laughs, tears, and any other reaction it can elicit from that rare, lip-quivering fan. The story itself centers on a man named John Quincy Archibald (Washington) and his attempts to raise $75,000 to cover the costs of a heart transplant for his dying son (Daniel Smith). When all else fails, John takes a group of Emergency Room attendees and patients hostage, demanding that his son be added to the recipient list. So begins a tiresome, oddly comical dissection of health care woes that finds John and his hollow hostages discussing assorted ethical issues and other relevant (and irrelevant) topics ad nauseum.
The eclectic pack of lovable hostages includes a morbidly obese security guard (Ethan Suplee, prior to his recent weight loss), an easygoing everyman (Kevin Connolly), a domestic abuse victim (Heather Wahlquist) intent on lying about her injuries, her hotheaded boyfriend (Shawn Hatosy), a fast-talking cynic (comedian Eddie Griffin), a new mother (Martha Chaves) and, of course, an obligatory pregnant woman (Troy Beyer) and her anxious husband (Troy Winbush). Oh, and did I mention John also happens to kidnap the hospital's leading heart surgeon and influential policy maker, Dr. Raymond Turner (James Woods)? Each character serves the filmmakers' narrow purpose, opening the door to superficial debates on gun control, HMO procedures, medical ethics, morality, human rights, and more. The entire film devolves into an episode of The McLaughlin Group -- except in this political arena it's Cassavetes and Kearns that step in for John McLaughlin, shouting WRONG! at anyone whose opinions might undermine their conveniently matter-of-fact talking points. Don't misunderstand: I appreciate that the film has something to say... it just bothers me that the characters are contrived mouthpieces instead of fully developed human beings.
Heaped with cliché-ridden nonsense, hindered by the director's tendency to limit the screentime of more intriguing characters (Robert Duvall and Ray Liotta), and lessened by the fact that Washington and Woods are the only ones in the Emergency Room who elevate the slippery script with strong performances, John Q not only falls apart... it implodes. More distressingly, Cassavetes doesn't infuse the film with a consistent tone. If we're supposed to immerse ourselves in dramatic tension, why is there so much eccentric humor? If we're being asked to seriously contemplate the fallacies of the American health care system, why are so many other issues tossed on the table? If we're expected to buy into the reality of Kearns' setup, why is the entire film wrapped up in a neat and tidy bow? From beginning to end, from scene to scene, John Q takes more time to establish an argument than an identity, invests more energy in its chess board than its pawns, and delves deeper into the ills of a sprawling organization than the emotions of the human heart.
John Q Blu-ray, Video Quality
At least John Q's 1080p/VC-1 transfer is more captivating than the film itself. Even though Cassavetes employs a bleak, almost monochromatic palette over the duration of the hospital siege, primaries (particularly reds) pop with authority, the darkest shadows are fully resolved, and skintones are relatively accurate. As an added bonus, stark but comfortable contrast leveling imbues the image with an engrossing depth of field. Eagle-eyed viewers may notice that detail is often sharp one moment and underwhelming the next, but fine textures have been pleasantly preserved, edges are well defined, and overall clarity is commendable. Best of all, the transfer isn't affected by the rampant technical issues currently haunting other recent New Line releases -- I didn't detect any significant artifacting, distracting digital noise, or problematic crush. While lingering edge enhancement occasionally sullies the proceedings and a faint veneer of grain can't decide if it's coming or going, the picture nevertheless boasts a clean, sturdy, and attractive appearance. And while a handful of troublesome close-ups left me wondering if Warner had applied some minor noise reduction (DNR), my findings were inconclusive.
Nitpicks aside, I'm happy to report that John Q thoroughly outclasses its DVD counterpart and features a more satisfying transfer than most of the other bargain-priced Warner titles I've plowed through this week.
John Q Blu-ray, Audio Quality
John Q may not have explosions, collapsing buildings, or transforming robots worthy of wooing audiophiles away from their favorite demo discs, but its Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track is nevertheless an impressive lossless mix that effectively recreates a variety of environments. Sirens realistically blare across open roads, a baseball game brims with authentic ambience, a factory erupts with activity, a quiet waiting room hums with florescent lights and distant vending machines, and a cramped operating room subtly echoes every voice. The audio presentation isn't perfect -- dialogue prioritization is a tad unforgiving at times, a few lines are lost in busier sequences, and some high-end effects lack the stability of others -- but solid LFE support adds a natural sense of weight to the soundscape and directionality is exceedingly precise. More importantly, smooth pans and meticulous sound design allow each element to function as if it inhabits a tangible world rather than a virtual, six-speaker space. All things considered, John Q's TrueHD track is an excellent companion to the disc's video transfer and will allow viewers to effortlessly sink into the film's preachy reality.
John Q Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
John Q arrives on Blu-ray with the same solid set of supplements that graced New Line's 2002 Infinifilm DVD. While all of the disc's video content is presented in standard definition, the welcome breadth of the package should please fans and satisfy anyone who wants to learn a bit more about Cassavetes' efforts or the subject matter at hand.
John Q Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Don't worry, I won't waste any more time ranting about John Q and its squandered cinematic potential. Suffice to say, I didn't enjoy it... at all. Thankfully, the Blu-ray edition is a different beast altogether. With an excellent video transfer, a strong TrueHD audio track, and a lengthy list of special features, it will certainly give fans of the film their money's worth.
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John Q Blu-ray, News and Updates
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When making a film about a controversial subject, it is often difficult to represent the subject matter in a way that will appeal to general audiences. Tread too lightly on the subject, and the message can be lost or misunderstood; tread too heavy, and the message ...
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