John Q. Archibald (Denzel Washington), a financially strapped factory worker, finds himself in deep trouble when his son will die unless he receives a heart transplant. Surgeons aren’t known for their bedside manner, but to say that Woods fails to show sympathy would be an understatement. He looks, and sounds, about as compassionate as a man ordering a lap dance. Informed that his company insurance plan will not cover a transplant, Archibald is forced to come up with $250,000 all by himself. He tries and tries, even selling off his furniture, but there is no way that the desperate family man, awash in nobility, can begin to make the payment. Driven over the edge, he wanders into the hospital with a gun and proceeds to take everyone in the emergency room hostage.
John Q. is a crude populist rabble-rouser that raises genuine, sobering questions about the way the American medical establishment, hijacked by the insurance companies, has relegated the very structure of health care to the bottom line. That’s a subject that’s long overdue for a good, honest, suspenseful muckraker. But the director, Nick Cassavetes, working from a script by James Kearns, has concocted a dishonest one. None of the details feels authentic, from the scowling inhumanity of the physicians to the ER waiting room that’s hilariously bereft of patients.