Denzel Washington is a perennial actor, who has not missed much in his career. However, his most critically panned outing is now on Netflix. What film is that? None other than the thriller John Q. The film sees Washington take on the role of John Quincy Archibald, a man who has a son that has a life-threatening medical condition that will surely take the boy’s life if surgery is not performed. However, the current medical plan that John has will not cover the surgery, forcing him to take drastic measures.
John Q may not have been the stellar film that critics wanted it to be, but the fact that it’s about the poor medical insurance fiasco in the United States makes it such a relevant film. The film was initially released in 2002 and holds a horrible critic rating of 23% on Rotten Tomatoes. However, the audience score for the film is a much higher 78%. The critic consensus for the film states that the message of the film “pounded on the audience’s head.” I mean, is that such a bad thing? This could also explain why the film is liked by audiences, as many have likely had to go through the harrowing issues that medical insurance companies often provide. Denzel Washington was providing a look at the medical issues this country still faces to this day. It’s still relevant.
John Q follows John Quincy Archibald as his son is stuck with an enlarged heart condition that needs immediate surgery. However, his HMO plan will not cover the boy’s surgery. John Q then takes matters into his own hands by holding the hospital staff hostage and forcing them to do the surgery. Denzel Washington plays the father who will do anything to keep their child alive, and his performance is spectacular. The character goes so far as to want to take his own life, just so his son will survive. It’s the ultimate film about sacrifice, family, and a twisted medical insurance foundation. No matter what the critics say, Washington is still the same actor in this film that he has been since he exploded onto the scene. You can see a powerful scene from the film below:
John Q made over $100 million against a budget of $36 million. Regardless of the poor critic score, the film has on Rotten Tomatoes, it was a success by every measure for audiences. Denzel Washington is joined by an all-star cast that includes Robert Duvall, Kimberly Elise, Anne Heche, James Woods, and Ray Liotta. As usual, Washington’s performance is lauded, albeit with the rest of the film’s elements being severely criticized.
According to the writers of the film, and based on deleted scene commentary from special features, the movie is meant to portray miracles and John Q’s belief in God. This would make sense considering Denzel Washington is one with strong faith. That theme may have been the intention of the film, but self-sacrifice and a poor health insurance infrastructure were more so what audiences got from the film. At least, that is how we feel. Another fun fact is that the film is loosely based on a real-life event that a SWAT team witnessed in Canada. A man by the name of Henry Masuka held an ER staff hostage when they would not immediately treat his infant son on New Year’s Eve in 1999. Masuka was shot and killed when exiting the building. It was later discovered that he was carrying an unloaded pellet gun. This detail is something that is echoed in the film by John, as he is carrying a gun that is not loaded as well.
Denzel Washington always plays characters to the best of his ability, and John Q is a film that echoes that fact completely. Although the critical response might make fans weary of watching this venture, it is still worth checking out. You truly can’t go wrong with any Washington-led film. John Q is currently streaming on Netflix, and fans of the man’s body of work can check out this early 2000s classic to formulate their own opinion. The relevance of the film might hit close to home for a lot of people, especially those who are parents. Or anyone who has had to deal with medical insurance woes.