(In theaters, February 2002) Is it possible to tell the difference between a social-issues film which demonstrates its views through action and a melodrama which looks to social issues as an excuse? You’ll have a hard time deciding while watching John Q, a film whose message at time seems too forced to be taken seriously. (And that’s not even considering the health care panel discussions between hostages and hostage-takers.) The real acting treat in the film isn’t the ever-dependable Denzel Washington as much as it’s the supporting characters played by veterans James Woods and Robert Duvall. Despite heavy audience manipulation and the inconsistent tone, John Q is a competent thriller, an undemanding drama-of-the-week with a sheen of social respectability. Rarely subtle (good=poor=black, bad=rich=white), often shameless and barely surprising. But it works, somewhat.