John Q

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It opens with a beautiful highway drive as the Ave Maria plays in the background and the life of a young beautiful woman comes to a sudden and unexpected an end. Perhaps thousands of miles away John Quincy Archibald and his wife are awaked by from sleep by the sound of the Repo Man hauling away his wifeís car.  His nine-year-old, Michael, reveals at breakfast that he is aware of what has transpired and has his own response to the Repo Man straight from the world of professional wrestling or body building where 270 pound men have 2% body fat.

During a Little League game later in the week, Michael collapses from heart disease and is rushed to the emergency room to find that Johnís health-care-plan will not cover the cost of the heart transplant needed to save Michaelís life. Although John has selected a full-coverage health plan that would have covered the $250,000 cost, and has been having the required employee premium deducted from his paycheck, his company has changed from a PPO for an HMO under which non managers and part-time workers qualify for only second-tier coverage with a $20,000 ceiling payout. The hospital encourages the Archibalds to take their son home and make him as happy and comfortable as possible as they await his death.

Rather than settle for certain death, the Archibalds determine that their son will have replacement heart surgery and they begin the process of insurance appeals and fund raising to make it possible. They are making remarkable progress raising the $75,000 down payment toward the cost of the surgery when the hospital asks that Michael be taken home to free bed-space for a paying customer. With the pressure mounting, even Johnís wife considers John Archibald a failure. And with no other option, John brings a gun into the hospital and takes the chief of cardiology, the staff of the emergency room, and emergency room patients hostage in the hospital emergency room to force the hospital to perform the life saving operation on his son.

And this is where the movie trailers lead usóto a desperate man and with a gun, and an attitude, and playing to the crowd gathering in his support. But this is not John Quincy.  John Quincy does have a gun; and he does take hostages; and a large sympathetic crowd does gathers outside in his support. But what the trailers and movie reviewers donít tell you (canít tell you without spoiling the movie) is that John Quincy has a plan of faith. He is awaiting an act of God--a miracle. If there is no action by God, John Quincy will kill himself to allow the surgeon to place his heart in his sonís chest. Of course there are strong refusals by the surgeon, but John Quincy argues, ". . .what are you going to do, just let a perfectly good heart go to waste?" The surgeon eventually agrees, and just as John Quincy has gotten comfortable on an emergency room stretcher and begun to load his gun with the single bullet brought into the hospital for this purpose, the heart of a matching donor arrives.

This is the miracle. On our way to the miracle we meet an ensemble of characters with their own stories like Mitch from the Slap-A-Whoa Tribe and his abused girl friend, a young mother with a baby and no where else to go, a young hustler who plays a rather enduring role, first-time parents who want only the best for their child, a young medical student, gun-shot victim, and a dedicated young doctor who had no idea her advisement to the Archibalds be tenacious and insist the hospital exhaust all options on behalf of their child would result in a game of chicken played over live TV.

John Q is a 2002 New Line Cinema release. It is 118 minutes long and carries a PG-13 rating for language violence. Aside from Denzel Washington it includes performances by Robert Duvall, James Woods, Anne Heche, Ray Liotta, Kimberly Ellise, Shawn Hatosy and Daniel E. Smith.  But my attention was drawn to this one because of Denzel Washington. Denzel seems to always do great roles that leave us with profound messages1. John Q is no exception. Similar to his character in Fallen, John Quincy is willing to sacrifice his own life to save those he loves. Sure, he would like to be around to see his son grow into manhood. But rather than see him die in his youth, John Quincy he is willing to die now, in his place. John Q is a great movie for family night discussions.

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1See Crimson Tide, Courage Under Fire, The Preacherís Wife and Fallen