Published Oct 09, 2015At first, 99 Homes — At Any Price director Ramin Bahrani's latest look at the dark side of the American dream — doesn't seem like much.
Andrew Garfield plays Dennis Nash, a down on his luck handyman who lives with his mother (played by Laura Dern) and his young son (Noah Lomax) in a run-of-the-mill Florida bungalow (one, like many American households, obtained through subprime lending).
With little to no money to their name, the Nash home is foreclosed on and, after some issues at the local courthouse, the family's eviction date is upped sooner than expected. That's when we meet Rick Carver (played by the always exquisite Michael Shannon), a gun-toting, money hungry real estate agent working a corrupt game who gobbles up properties as quickly as he dished them out ahead of the 2008 financial crisis.
When all four of them meet during the family's eviction there are, as could be expected, a few fireworks, but once all the overwrought dialogue and screaming stops, an opportunity presents itself: Dennis, with no future job prospects, decides to join Carver's crew — a ragtag bunch of similarly morally bankrupt characters — and learn the ropes of the business that ultimately lost his family their own home.
It's hard to imagine a movie that is ultimately about capitalist corruption in the American real estate market being a tense watch, but 99 Homes is undoubtedly one of the top thrillers of 2015. Bahrani has crafted a story that manages to cut straight to the core of any homeowner, would-be or otherwise, living North America, and assembled an all-star cast who help make understanding its complexities an interesting process.
Sadly, this is the kind of film that will likely get overlooked by the general populous for its subject matter alone (even though a former Spiderman stars in it). But when it comes to taut dramas vying for attention a few months before award season, few indies are as suspenseful and — given the lessons here on making it in America and the ethical issues that arise from it — actually of importance to the public as this one.