Ramin Bahrani’s film “99 Homes” is about American capitalism. The rich building their wealth off the backs of everyday people who invariably will go through hell and back just to provide for their children.
Set in 2010 during America’s latest economic crisis, caused largely by predatory home lenders i.e. banks, “99 Homes” is a gritty drama that shows the face of everyday citizens whose lives unraveled as jobless rates soared and home owners drowned in debt. The film is the juxtaposition between those who lost everything and those who profited from those loses.
Michael Shannon (Man of Steel) stars as Rick Carver, a cutthroat real estate agent who profits from foreclosures and flips the homes for profit. Andrew Garfield (Spiderman) plays Dennis Nash, an unemployed construction worker who has the misfortune of having Carver serve his eviction notice along with a pair of sheriff’s deputies who refer to Carver as boss.
A single father who is also taking care of his mother, Nash is desperate to get his home back from the bank. A bit dimwitted – perhaps an everyman – Nash is hung up on the idea that the judge gave him 30 days to appeal his conviction. But, he and his family are thrown out anyway in an efficient, heartless manner that shows we are all just faceless numbers to those in power.
Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, for Nash, Carver is obsessed with turning a profit and cuts corners by hiring less than desirables. Nash realizes that one of those undesirables tasked with removing Nash’s belongings from his home stole his work tools. Nash confronts the man at Carver’s office. However, in a quick turn of events, Nash ends up doing menial jobs for Carver to make ends meet.
Carver notices Nash’s willingness to take on any task and begins to take an interest in him. Slowly, a relationship develops between the two, and Carver begins to groom Nash into his protégé. However, Nash is understandably conflicted. He’s constantly having to reevaluate his priorities in life, but continues to push through for the love of his son, his desire to buy back his home and, well, women and money are nice.
“99 Homes” is an emotional film. The faces of those being convicted really hit home because the reality of the economic crisis is still part of our recent memories. The film deals with universal themes that make it easy to relate to the heartache even if you’ve never had a home foreclosed on. The reaction of those Nash evicts feels very raw, very real. The idea that many of us are just a few short, unfortunate circumstances away from losing everything makes this simple film, powerful.
Shannon is good in just about every film he is in, but his portrayal of a ruthless real estate agent might be his best. It was more difficult to take Garfield seriously as a single, hardworking father, but he puts in worthy performance. The pair has real chemistry. Nash is a relatable character and Bahrani never tries to make Carver into anything other than what he is, a man willingly capable of crushing your life to make a penny. Although at times difficult to watch, and emotionally draining, “99 Homes” is one of the biggest surprises of 2015.
4 stars out of 5
“99 Homes” is rated R for language including some sexual references, and a brief violent image.