John Q. Archibald is an ordinary man who works at a factory and takes care of his family. His wife Denise and young son Michael are his world. But when Michael falls seriously ill and needs an emergency heart transplant operation that John Q. can't afford and his health insurance won't cover, he vows to do whatever it will take to keep his son alive. With time and options running out, a desperate gamble becomes his only hope--he takes the emergency room hostage. As John Q. barricades himself inside the hospital along with his unwitting group of emergency room hostages, many of them in need of medical care themselves, he faces off with a veteran police hostage negotiator and a quick-tempered police chief who both want to bring a swift end to the stand-off.