99 Homes: Film Review
Cast: Michael Shannon, Andrew Garfield, Laura Dern
Director: Ramin Bahrani
That 99 Homes leaves you seething is a testament to the power of this drama and the moral turpitude it throws you into as this take on the American dream and the obsessions with property play out.
In an entirely relevant parallel given how over-heated the world's property markets are, Garfield is Dennis Nash, a father whose Orlando family home is foreclosed by the bank in 2008. Believing he has 30 days to fight the repossession, Nash's shocked to find the police on his doorstep the next day, demanding he, his mum (a solid Laura Dern) and his son leave immediately.
Also on the scene of the repossession is the lizard-like Rick Carver (an excellent Michael Shannon), a former real estate agent who is now head of his own realty company and who specialises in taking homes and turning profits - whatever the cost and with no regard for the emotional fall-out.
Humiliated and homeless, Nash is forced to work for Carver in a (contrived) series of events, but soon finds his desire to ensure his family has somewhere to live is over-stepping his basic humanity as his Faustian deal with Carver descends to new depths.
99 Homes is a powerful searing drama; it gives a human and inhuman face to the property crisis that beset America and that teeters on the edge worldwide currently.
Shannon's nothing short of electric and horrifying as Carver, a man whom we first meet at the scene of a suicide of an owner whose home has been taken by Carver's realty business. But in typical anti-hero stance, Carver doesn't care about the human cost of his business and Bahrani isn't really interested in fleshing out his character other than a few piecemeal scenes that give chilling insight and horrifying human touches to this monster of a man.
Equally, Garfield's Nash is played well; the conflict he feels is clearly marked early on, but the gnawing sickness of reality and desperation provides plenty of dramatic fuel as well as plenty of debate over what you would do. The line between black and white blurs easily in this morality tale, given human form and faces which can't be blocked from memory.
As this suspenseful thriller plays out and Nash dances ever closer to the devil, the intensity of the film ramps up, even if the credibility of some of the situations edge dangerously close to convenience rather than natural drama. Certainly, the balance of rational from Nash compared to Carver's clinically cold and despicable attitude is nicely struck early on, and both Garfield and Shannon's performances remain the real reasons to stay so engaged with 99 Homes throughout.
If anything though, 99 Homes is Shannon's film - it's a blistering turn that sees him blow smoke on the fire of who's fuelled this situation and Bahrani fans it by insinuating everyone is to blame, given that the banks lend more money when the home hunters are eager to gobble it up.
Ultimately, 99 Homes is a recession drama and a searing, sickening commentary that will eat at your soul long after it's done - and thanks to its morally compromised leads, the desperation of Nash and the almost vulture like behaviour of Carver will pick at you long after the lights have gone up.