99 Homes (2015)
The Global Financial Crisis inspired several chaos of capitalism movies each with a different spin on the same story. For example, Money Monster (2016) is a hostage thriller, The Big Short (2016) a comedy drama, and Inside Job (2010) a documentary. All try to make sense of financial fiasco but a standout amongst them is 99 Homes (2015). It is a tense hyper-realistic drama that literally barges inside the safe space of people’s homes, tosses them into streets, then points the finger at the moguls of real estate.
The opening scene graphically portrays the brutality of poverty when a mortgage defaulters’ blood-splattered body is quickly removed and the family thrown out so that a soul-less real estate agent can claim the property. The agent Rick Carver (Michael Shannon) is accompanied by local police for evictions and repossessions and they call him “Boss”. Unemployed builder Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield) is next to go and when he seeks a stay of eviction the local court sides with Carver. Nash shows guts and Carver offers him work in his thriving repossessions business that buys defaulted homes at rock-bottom prices. It turns out that Nash is good at it and there are several dramatic evictions in which angry mortgage defaulters are given a few minutes to grab their personal belongings before Carver’s men legally empty the homes and force traumatised families onto what was their own footpath. Nash starts making big money from doing Carver’s dirty work which includes fraud, theft, and the forging of documents to secure eviction orders. This is the ugly side of capitalism and Nash sinks deeper and deeper into a world of human misery. The stakes are raised when Carver is offered a multimillion dollar real estate deal that forces Nash to choose between the devil’s wealth or moral redemption.
This is a modern take on the Faustian dilemma of an ordinary man selling his soul, not for greed or greatness but to support his mother and kid. The acting performances are strong and the filming powerful, especially the close-up hand-held camera scenes of evictions full of screaming, palpable anger against real estate vultures. At almost two hours, it could use more time in the editing suite but overall the pace and tension are tight. It is an unsettling film but one that stays on message about the greed that preys on homes.
Director: Ramin Bahrani
Stars: Andrew Garfield, Michael Shannon