99 Homes (2014)

99 Homes (2014)
  • Time: 112 min
  • Genre: Drama
  • Director: Ramin Bahrani
  • Cast: Andrew Garfield, Michael Shannon, Laura Dern


A father struggles to get back the home that his family was evicted from by working for the greedy real estate broker who’s the source of his frustration.


  • A foreclosure drama set within the framework of a gangster thriller, 99 Homes is a passionate if occasionally heavy-handed morality tale that derives its power from the topical subject matter and the first-rate performances by Michael Shannon and Andrew Garfield.

    This is a film that may begin in blood and end with an armed stand-off, but it is the emotional brutality that comprises the most shocking acts of violence. Witness the plight of Dennis Nash (Garfield), a construction worker who lives in a suburban Orlando home with his hairdresser mother, Lynn (Laura Dern), and his son, Connor (Noah Lomax). Times are tough, he’s just lost a construction gig, and he’s fallen three months behind his bank payments. When real-estate broker Rick Carver (Shannon) appears on their doorstep and tells them to vacate the premises, the spectacle of Dennis’ helpless fury, Lynn’s fragile ferocity, the cops nearly strong-arming the now-trespassing former tenants, and the bluntly efficient Carver overseeing their eviction is ugly, appalling and enraging.

    Dennis and his family check into a cheap motel occupied by others who have experienced the indignity of eviction, thought they would be in the motel for a couple of days, and have yet to find solid financial footing years later. Embarrassed by his situation but more ashamed that is has meant uprooting his son from his family home, his neighbourhood school, and the comfort of all his friends, Dennis attempts to find work but the prospects are slim.

    Desperate times call for desperate measures and no measure is more desperate than Dennis willingly working for the very man who kicked him out of his own home. Initially doing cleaning and repair work on the houses recently seized by Carver, Dennis soon becomes Carver’s protege and learns how his employer rose from a blue-collar background to build a lucrative real estate empire by not only exploiting government and banking rules to force struggling owners out of their homes, but also by removing fittings and appliances from the abandoned residences and then charging the government for their repair and replacement. The money – and Carver’s promise that he will help Dennis get his home back – soon erode Dennis’ moral reservations. As Carver coolly says, why drown with the rest when you have the means to save yourself?

    Its social, economic and political themes aside, 99 Homes ably functions as an old-fashioned gangster story in which the innocent is charmed into a Faustian bargain by the most charismatic of devils. Shannon is almost too good as Carver, a smooth operator with an extreme Darwinian mentality. Similarly, Garfield surpasses himself here, reminding us of what emotional depths he was capable of in films such as Boy A, Never Let Me Go, and The Social Network before superhero spandex imprisoned him.

    Director Ramin Bahrani drives home the message with force and conviction. He’s definitely not subtle, but his unabashed indignation of the injustices rained upon decent, hardworking people makes for a chilling and sobering watch. As if to ensure no confusion results from the delivery of that message, Bahrani overdoes it a tad in his screenplay, often spelling out what Garfield and especially Shannon have already so skillfully conveyed.

    And yet…it’s hard to deny the bracing effect of Carver’s truth as written by Bahrani: America doesn’t bail out losers, it only bails out the winners.

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  • Ramin Bahrani’s latest film, 99 Homes, starring Michael Shannon, Andrew Garfield and Laura Dern is an elaborate display of contemporary eviction. The film itself redefines the thriller genre by patronizing other films emulating that genre. In essence, the film is an exploration piece to understand the values of our homes and the economic machines that have dominated our culture.

    The scenes in the film are masterfully crafted such as the distinct one-takes which gravitate audiences to experience the emotional distress of the characters. Foreclosure is a horrifying concept in itself. The fact that the place you have lived in all your life, where you have made memories, where you have watched yourself and the ones you love grow up, where you have lived, loved, and laughed, could all be taken away from you because of the institution of economy is truly terrifying. The film has many achievements but the one that stood out to me the most was the way it makes its audiences understand just how devastating foreclosures can be. Scenes of suicide, panic, and distress are evoked and experienced throughout varied families, which displays the detrimental and heartbreaking effects of evicting families out of their own homes.

    The story focuses on a small family, Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield), a single dad living with his mother (Laura Dern) and his son Connor (Noah Lomax). As bills begin to stack up from economic struggles, the family becomes distraught and fearful that they may be in danger of losing their home. Their fears become a reality when a money hungry man, Rick Carver (Michael Shannon), in a wealthy suit smoking an electronic cigarette (Bahrani’s nod to modern society), comes to evict them from their homes. The family only gets minutes to take their beloved possessions and clear out from the place they once knew and loved. In order to regain his home, Dennis decides to join up with Rick to evict people from their homes.

    The door-to-door scenes are truly terrifying and it’s where the thriller aspect of the film stands out the most. The emotional expression of these characters is breathing taking, raw and unforgettable. Michael Shannon’s performance as Rick Carver must be extolled primarily because it’s impossible to ignore how immersed he is in the character he plays. Both Shannon and Garfield carry the weight of the film by exhibiting their gifted skills as actors. Director Bahrani even made Garfield knock on doors of real people to evict them in their real homes. Garfield had no idea which families were actors and which families were real. This gave verisimilitude to the film by exploring the savage faces of the realities in which we live in.

    It’s no wonder why the film has been receiving rewards left to right for its cinematic integrity. On top of that, the performances are overwhelmingly incredible. The film leaves you glued to your seat as the fast paced piece of the film plays out driven by a small ensemble of a highly talented cast.

    From the original score that deepens the trauma of foreclosure, to the race-against-time pace throughout, the eye pleasing direction and cinematography, the horrifying credibility of the true stories, and the mesmerizing talents of the actors on screen, the film stands out as a bold, beautiful, cinematic masterpiece. It gains audience attentions from the moment it begins to the second it ends, leaving them with an unforgettable experience.

  • Let me save you some time and money. Please pay attention because I’m not going to repeat all this as often as the movie does: Government programs are scams , banks are uncaring institutions, real estate brokers are evil and homeowners who can’t pay their mortgages are stupid, but innocent victims of the system and are sometimes prone to violence. There. Now you don’t have to see “99 Homes” (R, 1:52). You now know all there really is to know about the presumptions in writer-director Ramin Bahrani’s anti-business, anti-government drama. The movie does have a few things going for it, but not many.

    Andrew Garfield plays Dennis Nash, a struggling Orlando, Florida construction worker who can’t pay the mortgage on his family home. Real estate broker Rick Carver (Michael Shannon) shows up with two sheriff’s deputies to evict the family. After just a few law-enforcement-supervised minutes to grab the most important items in their house, Dennis, his son, Connor (Noah Lomax), and Dennis’ widowed mother, Lynn (Laura Dern), are literally out on the street. They have nowhere to go and Carver’s crew are in the process of filling the front lawn with the rest of the family’s possessions which they have 24 hours to remove before the broker’s crew disposes of them, IF their stuff hasn’t been stolen overnight.

    Dennis, Connor and Lynn move into a local motel, where they join dozens of other families who are in the same predicament. The next day, Dennis shows up at Carver’s office to confront one of Carver’s men whom Dennis believes stole some of his tools. Carver isn’t happy with the fight that breaks out, but when an emergency maintenance call comes in about one of Carver’s newly repossessed properties, Dennis is offered $50 to go with Carver and his guys to take care of the problem. Dennis is willing to do a crappy job (literally) that no one else wants to do, but he still manages to convince several others to follow his example. Carver is impressed, offers Dennis a job on his crew and becomes Dennis’ mentor.

    Dennis quickly becomes the leader of Carver’s guys and it’s all down hill from there… in more ways than one. Carver also has Dennis stealing kitchen appliances and cabinets, outdoor air conditioning units and pool pumps so Carver can re-sell them, giving Dennis a healthy cut of these ill-gotten gains. Next up is talking other struggling homeowners into a “cash for keys” scam and then even assuming Carver’s role in conducting a few foreclosures of his own. Eventually, Carver tries to involve Dennis in a large-scale real estate deal which isn’t being conducted ethically, but could make them both very rich. Meanwhile, Dennis is making plans to use his rapidly growing savings to make things right for his own family, even as his mother and son grow increasingly uncomfortable (and are endangered) with what’s going on.

    “99 Homes” is the most emotionally manipulative movie I have seen in quite a while. The director must be a former circus performer, the way he bends over backwards to stage scenes that make people losing their homes look as sympathetic as possible and make those involved in the foreclosure process at any level look as evil as possible. All of the characters and institutions portrayed in the movie are shown, not as if they are the exception to any rule, but as if they are the rule – without exception. The sometimes engaging, but almost completely one-sided depiction of the aftermath of a housing crisis turns everyone in the movie into one-dimensional characters and almost completely shuts down any chance for a critical eye to take an honest look at the important issues the script raises. Carver offers Dennis some justification for his actions and Dennis grows increasingly conflicted over his “deal with the devil”, but those words and emotions are overshadowed by the characters’ actions. Unfortunately lost in this mess of a movie are excellent performances by both Shannon and Garfield, but great acting alone isn’t reason enough to see this movie. If you choose to heed my advice in this review, you may have 99 problems, but sitting through this movie won’t be one. “D”

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