[MOVIE REVIEW]Hospital story on 'critical' list

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[MOVIE REVIEW]Hospital story on 'critical' list

If one of your loved ones was dying and something could be done about it but you didn't have the money, what would you do? For John Q. Archibald, a Chicago factory worker, the answer is to take a gun and hold an entire emergency room hostage. That's the premise of "John Q," directed by Nick Cassavetes and opening Friday.

With his lovely wife Denise and his WWF-loving son Mike, Archibald (Denzel Washington) leads a happy, lower-middle-class life.

Everything seems all right until one day when his seemingly able-bodied son collapses during a Little League game. It turns out that Mike's heart is badly enlarged, three times more than average, and if the boy does not get a transplant he will die - slowly and painfully.

Archibald at first thinks he has insurance, but discovers that it will not cover the operation, so he will have to cover it himself. A $250,000 heart transplant is well beyond Archibald's means. A heartless hospital official and down-to-earth cardiologist both suggest the unthinkable, that Archibald let his son die. Driven into a corner with no acceptable options available, John decides to do something drastic.

It seems that the film itself, however, is in the most dire need of emergency surgery. The first hour is passable, but as the story unfolds, the film becomes didactic, melodramatic and just plain silly.

Once John takes control of the emergency room, the film gets exceedingly overwrought. Hostages start talking about the absurdity of having such a wealthy country where people cannot afford health care, even accusing doctors of taking bribes, while Washington overacts.

The film at times is powerful and sad, but it tries too hard and feels manipulative. And the final 20 minutes could have been condensed into a few sentences and subtitles. The end of the film is as predictable as a sunset.

The actors' performances, however, are exceptional. Although Washington has said, "If I were John Q., I would have never done that," in the film, he is intense and believable.

The film itself is basically well done, with solid directing in addition to the first-rate acting. If only the filmmakers had remembered that less is more, they might have ended up with a much needed, intriguing work, instead of the overdone cheesefest that "John Q." ended up being.

by Chun Su-jin

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