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Hospital care and medicine should be excellent considering the times we live in. After all, our country is prosperous and we have links to other countries that can provide us with the latest drugs and revolutionary treatment to prolong the most sacred thing: life.

But, in recent years, our health system, the NHS, has slowly collapsed under pressure from the sheer number of patients requiring treatment. The failure of our healthcare is because all treatment is free - so everyone whose anyone can seek help…although waiting lists build up and build up, and thus some patients will worsen over this period of time.

John Q
In America however they are at the other end of the spectrum: in order to be treated, you must pay, and the best way to pay is by possessing insurance. Paying each month may be pointless if you never require any medicine or healthcare, but then again if something serious happens (and let’s face it, in today’s world, anything can happen), you are covered financially at least. So it is interesting to see Hollywood deal with this issue.

Movie
The plot revolves around John Quincy Archibald - or John Q, as he is known - and his family. His wife, son and himself lived an idyllic if financially strained life, until one day his son collapses whilst playing baseball. Rushing him to hospital, John Q and his wife, Denise, are told that their son needs a heart transplant to live, and since they don’t have enough money in their pockets nor any insurance to cover the operation, the hospital shows them the door…until John Q blazes in, complete with a gun and the determination to place Hope Memorial, its patients and staff, under siege until his beloved son is granted the treatment he critically needs.

Fresh from his Oscar for Training Day, Denzel Washington (who previously won the supporting award for Glory) fronts the film as John Q, the average and respectable Joe who is placed in extraordinary circumstances. The first thing I noticed when watching the film was the conviction, honesty and vulnerability Washington portrays - although he played the big, bad, lean machine in Antoine Fuqua’s debut, in Nick Cassavetes first proper debut into mainstream cinema he shows a sensitive side that is compelling.

John Q
John Q opens with an extended sequence that sets up the end of the film predictably, but luckily although the narrative is very linear, the development of the Archibald family before disaster strikes is well done and intriguing. What follows is an ensemble piece of thrills; drama and the odd bit of action as numerous individuals’ battle for supremacy in a situation that is unfortunately all too common in today’s world where terrorism is rife. But, in this, the terrorist act isn’t a means of ‘terror’, more a means of desperation and hope.

Many critics have panned this for being shallow, predictable and downright cheesy - and yes, at times it can be implausible, but to me - someone who has watched a lot of crap over the years - there is some charm in the film that elevates it way above the ‘crap’ pile, and even above the average pile too.

No, it is not a classic; and no, it won’t hold up to too many repeat viewings, but the characters are interesting and intriguing enough to warrant at least a couple of sittings, and Cassavetes strings everything together seamlessly. It may scrape the bottom of the thriller cliché barrel, but it’s worth the ride.

Video
It is presented in 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen. This is a recent film stock, so the visuals are deep and well defined with good colour definition and a crisp and clear print. So it’s good to see EIV replicate this quality with an artefact-free transfer, free from all blemishes, although I did notice one, maybe two, compression signs in the film - but hey, it’s nothing too spoil the viewing experience.

Audio
A choice of DTS, Dolby Digital 5.1 & 2.0 greet the viewer. Since I am a proud owner of a surround sound kit complete with DTS, I can enjoy John Q in all of its glory…but is that glory any good? Well, yes, the soundtrack is crisp and clear throughout, but unfortunately there is little rear channel definition. The front channels are ambient enough, with dialogue replicated fine, but in a film that contains action sequences, more meat to the soundstage is needed - and the subwoofer is hardly used at all. Slightly disappointing, considering this boasts a DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks.

John Q
Extras
The extras kick off with an audio commentary with director Nick Cassavetes, Kimberly Elise and producer Mark Burg, which is the usual affair - I always say that 90% of commentaries are worth listening to for the most insight possible, and this is no exception. It may be a little too self-praising at times, but overall it is an unrivalled means of taking the viewer through how the film was made. Well worth tuning into on a repeat viewing.

The documentary, entitled Behind the Scenes of John Q, clocks in at 17 minutes, and it is is a fairly decent look at how the production came about, although there is a bit too much backslapping and a bit too little real insight. It features some soundbites of the cast and crew, but they aren’t as informative as they could be. Good, but not great.

The second documentary, entitled Fighting for Care is a real-life look at the healthcare situation in America, and at 35 minutes it is a hefty and interesting look at people who have suffered so much pain only for it to be worsened by financial problems: talking about rubbing peoples faces in the dirt. Featuring interviews and case studies of people who have gone through transplants, it is well worth watching after seeing a fictionalised tale of the ongoing problem.

There are 6 deleted scenes, presented with or without commentary. They are good, but don’t add much to the proceedings, and act merely as extra dialogue. Worth seeing once, but I have no qualms about them being dropped from the final cut.

John Q

The disc is rounded off with some production notes, filmographies, and a rather classy theatrical trailer (albeit if it gives half the game away).

The menus are animated, with clips from the film sliding across the screen accompanied by the score in the background. They are easy to navigate.

Overall
You’ll either quite like it or loathe it, and in my opinion it is a quite good to good film that isn’t dazzling or original, but instead it is a competent by-the-book adaptation of an old idea reworked and reworked over the years, albeit with an original healthcare slant. It may seem like a glossy TV movie, but below the superficial exterior lies a film that exposes the amazingly strong bond between father and son. Good performances, fairly good script (by a debut screenwriter), and a climax that whilst predictable is satisfying in ways.

The DVD itself is a fairly good package - strong video presentation, quite good audio, and quite good extras. A slightly more informative documentary and perhaps more interviews would have turned them into a great bunch of extra features. Worth renting at least, and I have added this to my ever-expanding wishlist. Some day, when the price is right, I will add this under-rated film to my ever-expanding collection.


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