John Q is a 2002 film directed by Nick Cassavetes starring Denzel Washington as John Quincy Archibald, a father and husband whose son is diagnosed with an enlarged heart and then finds out he cannot receive a transplant because HMO insurance will not cover it. Therefore, he decides to take a hospital full of patients hostage until the hospital puts his son's name on the recipient's list.
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As the film opens a young woman is recklessly driving a white BMW down a mountain highway. A slow-moving truck impedes her progress, and as she attempts to pass it on a blind curve a second truck looms in the oncoming lane and clips the woman's rear fender. The woman spins and comes to a stop in front of the first truck which broadsides her car and she dies (this whole ordeal is interspersed throughout the movie).
John Quincy Archibald (Denzel Washington) is with his wife Denise (Kimberly Elise) at his son's baseball game. As his son, Michael (Daniel E. Smith), runs around the bases and heads to second he grabs his chest and collapses. After a series of tests at the hospital John is informed by Dr. Raymond Turner (James Woods) and Rebecca Payne (Anne Heche), a hospital administrator, that Michael has an enlarged heart and will need a transplant. However because the company he works for dropped John from full-time (40+ hours) to part-time (20 hours), his health insurance has been changed from a PPO to an HMO, and the new policy does not cover the surgery, leaving them to raise 30% ($75,000) of the $250,000 in order to get their son's name on the list of likely recipients of an available heart. The family tries to raise the money by selling some of their possessions and helping out their neighbors, but are only able to raise about a third of the necessary payment. Eventually the hospital gets tired of waiting for payments and decides to release Michael. John's wife Denise tells him to do something about the situation after the hospital tells her about Michael's release. Unwilling to let his only child die, John decides it's time to take drastic measures. John walks into the hospital emergency room with a handgun and begins a hostage situation. He gathers the hostages and sets his demands: his son's name on the recipient list as soon as possible. The hostage negotiator, Lt. Frank Grimes (Robert Duvall), stands down to let John cool off.
Meanwhile, John and the 11 hostages communicate and learn more about each other. They begin to understand John's situation and support him a little as he ensures each of them receive the treatment they came to the emergency room for. One of them, Miriam (Troy Beyer), is pregnant, and her husband Steve (Troy Winbush) is hoping that their first kid is healthy. A young hostage, Julie (Heather Wahlquist), has a broken arm, and she and her boyfriend Mitch (Shawn Hatosy) claim that a car crash caused it, but due to some holes in their story (and the fact that Mitch's only injuries are scratches on his arm) John and another hostage, Lester (Eddie Griffin), are able to conclude that the two are lying and that Mitch had actually beat Julie up.
After a while John agrees to release some hostages (one is Miriam who is about to give birth and needs to go to the maternity ward) in return for his son's name being on the list an hour afterward. Miriam requests that Steve leave with her, but Steve only wishes for his wife and soon-to-be born child to go to safety. Mitch then says that he should go, and the two have an argument about who will leave. During the argument Mitch insults Steve and he, infuriated, starts to shove Mitch around. John intervenes, and Mitch, taking John by surprise, maces him and attempts to disarm John. John fights back and eventually loses his gun during the fight. Julie is ordered by Mitch to recover the gun, but instead, fed up with Mitc
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