JOHN Q ($27) is a message movie that makes a very potent statement about the sad state of health care in the United States of America. Certainly, there are aspects of the plot that are far fetched, there are gaping holes in the logic, some of the characters are clichéd and the story is highly manipulative. However, one tends to overlook these flaws because the potency of the film's message and the strong central performances. JOHN Q stars Denzel Washington as John Quincy Archibald (aka John Q), a family man who finds himself having difficulty making ends meet, when his company reduces his hours of work. During a little league game, John Q's son collapses and after he rushes the child to the hospital, the doctors discovered that John Q's son needs a heart transplant.
Unfortunately, as a result of working fewer hours for his company, John Q's medical coverage is greatly reduced and the insurance company will not pick up the tab for the transplant surgery. After losing an appeal and unable to get any form of public assistance, John Q learns that due to the mounting medical bills, the hospital is in the process of discharging his son- in essence sending him home to die. With no other options, John Q decides to take matters into his own hands by taking everyone in the hospital's emergency room hostage. When the police negotiator arrives, John Q has only one demand- a new heart for his son. In addition to Denzel Washington, the cast of JOHN Q also includes Robert Duvall, Kimberly Elise, Daniel E. Smith, Anne Heche, James Woods and Ray Liotta.
New Line Home Entertainment has made JOHN Q available on DVD in 1.85:1 wide screen presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays. Like most other New Line DVDs, image quality is absolutely first rate. Everything appears sharp and finely detailed. Colors are nicely balanced with the stark hospital interiors contrasting with strongly rendered hues. Blacks are right on the money, whites are stable and the image has smooth contrast, plus very good shadow detail. The film element used for the transfer display virtually no blemishes and little appreciable grain. Clean dual layer authoring keeps digital compression artifacts nicely concealed.
JOHN Q features both Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 channel soundtracks. Both tracks are very similar sonically, with DTS having a slight edge due to the higher resolution of the format. JOHN Q is very much a dialogue driven film, so the sound mix isn't particularly showy. The mix creates natural sounding environments, with a strong forward soundstage and atmospheric surrounds. Discrete sound effects are present in the mix, but opportunities for their occurrence are very limited by the nature of the material. Dialogue is very cleanly rendered and the actors' voices maintain a natural timbre. The bass channel has a few moments when it is noticeable, but usually, it just keeps the sound grounded. Music is a very strong element in the sound mix and is reproduced with excellent fidelity and a nice sense of presence. An English Dolby Surround soundtrack is also encoded onto the DVD, as is English captioning.
Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVDs interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features. This being an Infinifilm release, the DVD includes a goodly amount of supplemental material, plus the option of watching the movie in an interactive mode, in which supplements pertaining to a particular moment become available during the course of the film.
Starting things off is a running audio commentary with director Nick Cassavetes, producer Mark Burg, writer James Kearns, actress Kimberly Elise and cinematographer Roger Stoffers. The commentary is insightful and offers various viewpoints on different facets of the production. A thirty-five minute documentary entitled Fighting For Care looks at the problems faced by Americans needing transplants, when dealing with the costs of the procedures and medical insurance. A seventeen minute behind-the-scenes featurette is also included, and while somewhat fluffy, it does offer a bit more meat that most programs of this nature.
About twenty minutes of material from the cutting room floor is present in the form of additional scenes and scene extensions. These deleted scenes are available with or without director's commentary. An Infinifilm Fact Track is available on a subtitle track, offering additional information relating to the movie. A theatrical press kit and theatrical trailer close out the main body of supplements. JOHN Q is also DVD-ROM enabled, offering the script-to-screen option of looking at the screenplay, as well as the theatrical web site and other web links.
As message movies go, JOHN Q is not a bad offering. The performances and the potency of the message save it from its gaps in logic and manipulative excess. As for the DVD, New Line has produced another winner, making this a good way of checking out the movie and examining the issue it spotlights.
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