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John Q.

Give a father no options and you leave him no choice.

Unfortunately, everyone in the audience knows what that choice is, and it kinda takes the excitement out of the story.

Such is John Q, a hip new hostage drama with a twist, the twist being that the hero is the one taking everyone hostage. He's a good guy, backed into a corner and forced to do the unthinkable. And then the movie more or less writes itself. You know what's going to happen, there's no need to sit there and watch it unfold.

Denzel Washington stars as John Q. Denzel is a great actor, and he gets a lot of material to chew on and just do an upstanding job of acting.

Sadly, this is not a one-man show.

The story goes more or less like this. John Q has a son, and his son becomes really, really sick. He needs a new heart. John Q doesn't have the money to get his son a new heart. John Q's insurance refuses to pay for the new heart. Medicare refuses to pay for the new heart. Everybody and The Pope refuses to pay for the new heart. So John Q sells everything he owns to raise money. It's not enough. He takes up a collection at church. It's not enough. He begs from everyone he has ever met. It's not enough. He hooks. It's not enough. Somehow, this child, and this family, have fallen through the cracks--their son is going to die, and they can't get him a new heart.

So he takes the emergency room hostage.

And then the movie becomes rather less-than-stellar.

Each and every hostage is a cliché. You know who they are, what they're going to say and how they will each react. Robert Duvall steps in as the friendly old hostage negotiator who bucks the system and forms a bond with John Q. Ray Liotta comes along to be the cliché idiot Police Chief and screw everything up. Events unfold as you know they must. Guess what happens in the end?

You're right.

I love Denzel. The guy can flat out act, and is in no way responsible for this movie sucking, just as George Clooney was in no way responsible for Batman and Robin sucking beyond comparison. If Denzel Washington starred in a movie about dust mites, he'd bring a level of intelligence and compassion to his dust mite that has never before been seen. It would be an honor to watch Denzel as a dust mite. He'd be the embodiment of dust mites everywhere. Everymite, you might say.

Which is the only reason to see this movie. For every ounce of evil in his character in Training Day, he matches it with gallons of goodness as John Q. (Q is the first initial of his middle name, not his last name, which is Archibald. But John A doesn't have the same ring as John Q, now does it? He could have been called John Q A, but then he begins to sound like an ex-president. Or perhaps a question and answer session. Or Quality Assurance. )

This movie is more a logline than anything else. A father takes over a hospital emergency room in order to save his son's life. There ya go, there's your fulfillment. If you hurry, you can probably still catch Orange County or Slackers.

John Q picks up 2 1/3 Babylons. Save your money, save yourselves, skip this flick in the theaters, then rent the DVD in three months and put it on while you're paying bills or ironing. You can skip over any scene that doesn't include Denzel and pretend it's a decent movie.

Editor's Note:

I think the SMC secretly liked this movie--I saw the beginning of an autobiography manuscript on his desk today entitled "Self M."

Rated: PG-13
Directed By: Nick Cassavetes
Starring: Denzel Washington and a bunch of other people who are inconsequential and not worth remembering.

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