John Q.

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John Q.
John Q film poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byNick Cassavetes
Produced byMark Burg
Oren Koules
Written byJames Kearns
StarringDenzel Washington
Robert Duvall
James Woods
Anne Heche
Eddie Griffin
Kimberly Elise
Shawn Hatosy
Ray Liotta
Music byAaron Zigman
CinematographyRogier Stoffers
Edited byDede Allen
Distributed byNew Line Cinema
Release date
  • February 15, 2002 (2002-02-15)
Running time
116 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$36 million
Box office$102.6 million

John Q. is a 2002 American thriller drama film starring Denzel Washington and directed by Nick Cassavetes. The film tells the story of John Quincy Archibald (Denzel Washington), a father and husband whose son is diagnosed with an enlarged heart and who finds out he is unable to receive a transplant because HMO insurance will not cover it, before he decides to hold up the hospital and force them to do it.

The film co-stars Robert Duvall, Kimberly Elise, Anne Heche, James Woods, and Ray Liotta. The film was shot in Toronto,[1] Hamilton, Ontario, and Canmore, Alberta, although the story takes place in Chicago. Shooting took place for 60 days from August 8 to November 3, 2000. The film was released on February 15, 2002.


A woman drives recklessly down on a winding road, eventually fatally colliding with a truck. Across the country in Chicago, factory worker John Quincy Archibald and his wife Denise face financial trouble due to the ongoing recession. They rush their young son Michael to the hospital when he collapses at his baseball game, and are informed by cardiologist Dr. Raymond Turner and administrator Rebecca Payne that Michael needs an expensive heart transplant to survive. The hospital requires a $75,000 down payment to place Michael on the organ recipient list, and John discovers that because of his job's recent changes to their insurance carrier and his working hours, his health insurance will not cover the surgery.

After failing to acquire alternate aid from elsewhere, John and Denise struggle to raise the money themselves, and the hospital eventually prepares to send Michael home to die, leading a distraught Denise to urge John to do something. Determined to save his son, John confronts Dr. Turner at gunpoint and takes him and several patients and staff hostage in the ER, but allows a gunshot victim inside to be treated. Police arrive not long after, and negotiator Lt. Frank Grimes makes contact with John, who identifies himself as “John Q.” and demands that Payne put Michael’s name on the recipient list.

Grimes clashes with his superior Chief Gus Monroe, while most of the hostages sympathize with John and his plight and reflect on the flaws of the American healthcare system. Agreeing to release some of the patients, John is attacked by hostage Mitch Quigley, whose girlfriend Julie Byrd is fed up with Mitch’s abuse and helps to subdue him instead. Handcuffing Mitch, John frees expectant couple Steve and Miriam Smith and immigrant mother Rosa Gonzales and her infant son, who all declare their support for John to the news crews outside. Grimes and Payne reveal John’s actions to Denise, and Payne decides to place Michael on the list and perform the operation for free.

Overriding Grimes’ command, Monroe allows a SWAT sniper to enter the ER via an air shaft, luring John into the line of fire with a phone call from Denise. John speaks with Michael as his condition worsens, while a news crew hacks the police surveillance feed and broadcasts John’s conversation with his family. Ending the call, John discovers the hacked news footage as the sniper fires, wounding him in the shoulder. He overpowers the sniper, using him as a human shield as he steps outside and reiterates his demands in front of a cheering crowd. Monroe and the hospital capitulate, and Michael is brought to the ER in exchange for the sniper’s release.

John reveals his intention to commit suicide so his own heart can be used to save his son. He persuades Turner to perform the operation, and Julie and security guard Max Conlin bear witness to John’s impromptu will. He says his goodbyes to Michael, and prepares to end his own life using the only bullet he brought, but Denise reaches the ER with news that the heart of a recently deceased organ donor – the motorist from the beginning of the film – is a match for Michael and is on the way. Once the heart arrives, John releases the remaining hostages, including patient Lester Matthews, who surrenders to police disguised as John. Posing as one of the surgeons, John accompanies his son to the operating room, where a sympathetic Grimes, who was the only one to notice the switch between him and Lester, finds him with Denise and allows him to watch Michael’s successful operation before taking him into custody.

Three months later, John’s actions have sparked national debate about healthcare, and all the hostages testify on his behalf at trial. John is acquitted of attempted murder and armed criminal action, but convicted of kidnapping and false imprisonment; his lawyer assures him that he will likely serve no more than two years. As John is driven to jail to await his prison sentence, a now-healthy Michael thanks him.



According to the commentary on the Deleted Scenes with Cassavetes and writer James Kearns, the main theme of the movie was said to be "about a miracle and John's faith in God creating the miracle". They also mentioned how SWAT team advisors for the film related a similar true incident in Toronto where a man (Henry Masuka) took an ER hostage after it would not provide immediate service to his infant son on New Year's Eve 1999. When he exited the ER he was shot and killed and found to be carrying an unloaded pellet gun.[2][3][4]


Box office[edit]

The film opened in first place at the box office, taking $23,275,194 during its first weekend. It ended up with a total domestic gross of $71,026,631 and $102,244,770 worldwide.

Critical reception[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 23% based on the 131 reviews, with the site's consensus reading, "Washington's performance rises above the material, but John Q pounds the audience over the head with its message."[5] Metacritic gives it a score of 30 out of 100, based on 33 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Reel Toronto: John Q". online news. Torontoist.
  2. ^ Audio commentary on the DVD.
  3. ^ Rush, Curtis (10 December 2011). "In tailspin after police shootings, former SWAT team leader lifts veil on post-traumatic stress syndrome". Toronto Star. Retrieved 21 December 2011.
  4. ^ "Inquest into fatal hospital shooting begins" CBC News, April 17, 2001.
  5. ^ "John Q".
  6. ^ "John Q".
  7. ^ Hooli, Shekhar H. (15 March 2010). "Sugreeva – Review". oneIndia. Retrieved 29 February 2012.
  8. ^ "Tathastu? Or is it John Q?". South Asian Women's Forum. 10 May 2006. Archived from the original on 2 February 2016. Retrieved 29 February 2012.

External links[edit]