Director: Ramin Bahrani
Broad Green Pictures
I first saw 99 Homes a year or so ago in the theatre – it stayed with me, but it felt futile to write anything about it, much as I wanted to recommend it to nearly everyone. Revisiting it now as a DVD the film’s compelling feel – documentary’s heart and soul mixed with a thriller’s grit – still seems every bit as urgent and powerful. Antony Partos and Matteo Zingales’ subtly pervasive score is crucial to the ratcheting of tension and the way the storyline pumps along (it’s a shame there is no commercially released soundtrack) and the stellar performances from an always-great Michael Shannon and a slightly greener Andrew Garfield (his work here is sublime) would sell the film at any rate. But there’s also the story – the themes and mood and the pacing of the action around the debate.
Shannon plays Rick Carver – the new version of Greed Is Good for the post-financial meltdown (rinse and repeat) world of city-slicker capitalism. Carver’s realtor job took a hit in the crash so he’s a maverick buying and selling homes (flipping them) and on the take with a crew of labourers helping him to evict families and change locks just as quickly as he can.
This is how he meets Dennis Nash – a construction worker with no job and no way of catching up on the house payments. His young son and his mother Lynn (strong support from Laura Dern) are turfed out along with Nash. It’s cold. Brutal.
But Nash’s skills give him an in with Carver and in an act of utter desperation he picks up some cash jobs working on sites. Theirs is a pact-with-the-devil situation – Nash avoiding talking about where the sudden influx of cash is actually coming from when he returns to spoil his son and aims to buy back the house for his mother.
The film doesn’t have the answer – because there isn’t one. But anyone who watches this and can’t quite see outcomes, can’t pick sides, can’t see the horror isn’t really watching.
The powerhouse performances would make this a great film regardless of the taut script, thrilling score and the hurtle of it all but it’s virtuoso film making and strong point-making all wrapped into one. One of the best films I’ve seen – and every bit as important and electrifying (thrilling and chilling) on repeat screening.
There. I haven’t – at all – done it justice. But this time I felt I had to say something about this incredible film.