A taut, tense drama-cum-thriller that doesn’t let up from start to finish, 99 Homes concerns a ruthless businessman and his questionable ethics, and a single father facing eviction. You could sum it up with the words “sleeping with the devil”.
Andrew Garfield plays Dennis Nash, a tradie who simply isn’t getting by. He lives with his mother Lynn (Laura Dern) and young son Connor (Noah Lomax) in the home in which he grew up, but all that is about to change when Rick Carver (Michael Shannon) comes to kick him out, sheriff in tow. And kick him out he does, with Dennis and his loved ones traumatised by what is happening to them. The bank has foreclosed and Carver’s company is the beneficiary. Through an unexpected turn of events, just when Dennis has no place to turn, it is Carver who offers him a chance, not because he is a nice guy, simply as he finds himself in a bind. And the resultant job doesn’t disappoint. In fact, in no time Dennis is earning more money than he ever dreamed of. Mind you, what he has do to do get it causes him concern, especially when it leaves families like his – the desperate and, in some cases, the elderly –without a place to turn. In other words, his change of fortune comes at a cost.
At first Dennis is simply intent on getting his home back and earning security for his family, but the better life Carver promises him proves extremely seductive. As Dennis falls deeper into Carver’s web, he finds his situation growing more brutal and dangerous than he ever imagined.
Co-writer and director Ramin Bahrani (whose films have screened at the Cannes, Sundance, Venice, Berlin and Toronto Film Festivals) has crafted a little gem. Its simple message seems to be “by the grace of God, go I”. In other words, you don’t know what will happen to you tomorrow.
In the film, Carver was a regular real estate agent and then he learned another way. Suddenly he is living a lavish lifestyle with the mantra “greed is good” and it worked for him. Then there is Dennis at the opposite end of the pendulum, who is really on Struggle Street and yet he has an honest work ethic.
Garfield and Shannon are riveting and like a powder keg together. You can’t take your eyes off them for a second. You can feel the inevitability of an explosion but don’t know when it will come. I love movies that have an “incendiary” feel and this one is a ripper. Shannon generally displays calm menace, but can arc up at will and that he does. Garfield plays worried and perplexed with distinction.
I was particularly conscious of the film’s score, with composers Anthony Partos and Matteo Zingales certainly making their mark.
Rated M, 99 Homes is a smart adult film that should be seen and scores an 8 to 8½ out of 10.
Director: Ramin Bahrani
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Laura Dern, Michael Shannon
Release Date: 19 November 2015
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television