John Q (15)

Review by Simon Bell

DENZEL Washington is the stock baseball-cap wearing blue collar desperado against the system who becomes a media hero-for-a-day dad when he forces medical staff at gunpoint to perform a life-saving heart transplant on his sick, beloved son.

Desperately trying to make a serious political point about the dearth of sufficient healthcare provision for America's poor, Nick Cassavetes' latest unfortunately banks on mistimed cutaways of whooping crowd members gathered outside the Hope Memorial Emergency Ward for most of its rabble-rousing.

Talking of banality, this one has it all; the wealthy and uncompromising head of cardiology; a steely hospital chief exec who softens to mush; a police chief trying to keep his nose clean for the upcoming elections (would you believe it, he has an irate mayor yelling down the phone to accommodate?); the tough, seen-it-all-before hostage negotiator with a human touch.... the list goes on.

In fact, so heavily does the film rely on hackneyed platitudes that it could be a consummate lesson in cinematic flatness.

Denzel gives a heartfelt show as usual, but he's not going to do his post-Oscar image much good if he keeps tangling himself up with the likes of this utter bilge.

Meanwhile, not even the talents of Ray Liotta and Robert Duvall can inject any life into this flaccid mess. They don't even look like they care, come to that.

Lacking any of the raw intensity or profound insight of his dad's work (can Cassavete's Jnr really be of the same genes as John?), John Q just ends up a cheap homage to Dog Day Afternoon, with every cliche in the book battered about like there's no tomorrow.

As it crashes and burns its way to a deeply unsatisfactory ending, it even has the cheek to send us packing with the tired news montage sign-off. Non-masochists avoid, this is as much fun as the NHS.

Click here for the John Q official website.