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New Line Home Cinema presents
John Q (2002)

"I am not going to bury my son! My son is gonna bury me."
- John Archibald (Denzel Washington)

Review By: Kevin Clemons   
Published: July 24, 2002

Stars: Denzel Washington
Other Stars: James Woods, Robert Duvall, Anne Heche, Ray Liotta, Kimberly Elise, Daniel E. Smith
Director: Nick Cassavetes

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language, violence
Run Time: 01h:58m:19s
Release Date: July 16, 2002
UPC: 794043546822
Genre: drama


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B- CAB+ A

DVD Review

When John Archibald (Washington) storms into the emergency room of a Chicago hospital holding a gun he is looking for answers, but above all he is searching for a miracle. His son Michael (Smith) is dying from a rare disorder that is affecting his heart and, without a transplant, he will likely lose his life at an early age. Though a transplant is the best option it is unlikely to occur as the insurance policy that the Archibald's hold shows no provision for an operation of this magnitude, leaving John with no options. Distraught, John turns his attention to Michael's doctor (Woods) whom he will hold hostage—along with the occupants of the entire emergency room—until Michael's name is put on a transplant list, ensuring his survival. In the end, John Q director Nick Cassevetes seems to be asking the all-important question: What would you do if you were in the same situation?

Strangely though, the film never really puts the viewer in John's shoes. Instead, it becomes a sub-standard movie of the week that seems more content on showcasing the hostage aspect while drifting away from both the emotional and potentially controversial core of the story. The film is undeniably at its best when showcasing the relationship between a father and his son, as well as showing the despair that many face when dealing with the business of medical insurance. Though John Q does present these ideas, it never does anything more with them. The healthcare dilemma is discussed in a throwaway scene featuring John and the hostages, though a lengthy deleted scene on the topic that is offered as an extra feature on this DVD would have partially corrected this flaw.

While the lack of a meaningful focus hampers John Q, it may have been easy to overlook if the film only had characters worth caring about. The group of hostages represent nothing more than stereotypical characters that are written to allow the audience to sympathize with John, something the script has already accomplished through several early scenes. The characters that writer James Kearns has created to oppose John in his attempt to save his son are underdeveloped, including Robert Duvall and Ray Liotta as underused Chicago police officers that throw a wrench into the plot and subsequently do nothing more than provide another obstacle John must hurdle.

Cassavetes, who unfortunately has a child in a situation similar to the one depicted in the film, does a good job with his direction, but too often his work feels flat and unexciting. The sequences involving the police move along and are exciting at times, but Cassavetes often changes too quickly between these scenes and those featuring John and the hostages, giving the pace an uneven feel. As is often the case, Washington is note perfect as he brings an emotional level to the character that is not present in the script. It seems Washington has the ability to make any line of dialogue into something believable and true. It is a fine performance, something that has become standard practice for Mr. Washington. The supporting cast contains fine performances by both Woods and Duvall, but others fail to achieve the same level, including Liotta and Heche.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Presented in a wonderful 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer, John Q represents yet another reason why New Line has remained consistent in offering high video quality since the creation of DVD. The colors in the film, from the amber tones in exterior shots to the harsh blues of the emergency room, look terrific. Black levels are spot on throughout, and I saw no apparent bleeding with any of the brighter colors. Sharpness and detail are high quality, giving the transfer a very film-like look. I noticed no real instances of edge enhancement, but if you look hard enough you may find some. This is a terrific transfer from New Line.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes
DTSEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Though far from being a film with an overly active sound mix, the DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks used on this Infinifilm DVD are done nicely. The film is largely dialogue-driven, with only a few scenes offering any real rear speaker action. Dialogue is crisp and clean throughout and is mixed at an acceptable level, while the left and right speakers do a fine job of creating ambience, something that is effective in the interior scenes in the hospital. The rear speakers do a good job of reproducing the musical score as well as offering ambient sounds in the exterior sequences.

I noticed no real difference between the DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes, though your mileage may vary.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 23 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
6 Deleted Scenes
1 Documentaries
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Nick Cassavetes, producer Mark Burg, writer James Kearns, actress Kimberly Elise and director of photography Roger Stoffers
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Infinifilm fact track
Extras Review: As is the case with the releases in the Infinifilm series, John Q offers something more than you are likely to find on other special edition releases. As well as a host of special features, there is a "fact track" that runs at the bottom of the screen when selected, adding much more to the movie experience. The subject matter of the film makes this an appropriate addition to the Infinifilm collection.

The track features easy access to interviews with doctors, patients, and executives on each side of the debate on healthcare. In some ways this feature deals more with the problem than the actual film. Other entries in the fact track include quick access to deleted scenes, interviews with cast and crew, as well as information about certain sequences and how the shots were obtained.

A commentary track featuring director Nick Cassavetes, producer Mark Burg, writer James Kearns, actress Kimberly Elise and director of photography Roger Stoffers is included and while the group is rather large for a single track, there are surprisingly several gaps of silence that take away from the overall quality. Each is very well spoken and has true admiration for the film, including Cassavetes who delves into the troubles that his daughter went through and how they mirror those in the film. In the end though, the track is largely focused on anecdotes from each of the participants and the typical stories that derive from a long production period.

The jewel of the special features in a thiry-five-minute documentary titled Fighting For Care. The documentary showcases the hardships, as well as the inspirational aspects about organ donors and the struggles that many go through to have a successful transplant. Featuring interviews with patients, doctors, and healthcare executives, this piece should be watched by everyone in an effort to become better educated about the problems facing those in need of an organ transplant.

Next is a more standard behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film. While overly promotional, this is a quick and interesting look at the effort that went into making John Q. Also included are six deleted scenes with optional commentary by Nick Cassavetes, and while several of the group were rightfully deleted there are a few that standout above the rest. The first is a discussion about HMO's and the corruption found in the healthcare industry. Another is a brilliant speech by James Woods about being a doctor. These sequences would have added some much needed reality ot the film; sadly though, they are only offered as a bonus option.

Finally, the original press kit is offered and includes cast and crew bios as well as the original trailer offered in Dolby Digital 5.1 sound and anamorphic widescreen.

Extras Grade: A

 

Final Comments

I enjoyed the presentation of John Q on this DVD more than I did in its theatrical release; the extra features, as well as the video and audio portions are very high caliber. The DVD is a definite recommendation for those looking for insight into the filmmaking process as well as controversial issues about medical insurance. However, the marginal quality of the film makes the overall package difficult to endorse.

 


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