How far are you willing to go to save your home? It’s a question Ramin Bahrani’s latest film, 99 Homes asks, and in the process delivers not only an economically relevant story but also an increasingly compelling one.
In this film, Andrew Garfield plays Dennis Nash, a construction worker who is just barely making ends for his mother and nine-year old son when he gets evicted by a ruthless gun-toting real-estate broker, Rick Carver, played by Michael Shannon. Humiliated and homeless, Nash has no choice but to move his mom and nine-year old son into a shabby, dangerous motel, until an unexpected opportunity arises for Nash to strike a deal with the devil and begin working with Carver, the man responsible for all his frustration.
Ramin Bahrani who came into the lime-light when his hailed as the of the “the director of the decade” by film critic Roger Ebert after the release his 2007 film Chop Shop, delivers easily his best and most accessible work yet with a film that almost feels like a modern-day reimagining of Oliver Stone’s Wall Street.
Themes of greed and power take center stage in this thoroughly engaging drama. It’s expertly crafted, effectively told and very, very tense and gripping when it wants to be. It’s anchored by two fantastic central performances from Michael Shannon and Andrew Garfield and you can almost even see a Gordon Gekko/ Bud Fox parallel between their two characters. Shannon, with an electronic cigarette in his mouth, brings tremendous charisma and magnetism to the role of Rick Carver, to a point where he does become that despicable person we all can’t help but admire. It’s a role only Michael Shannon could play.
With Garfield though, it’s the straightforwardness of his performance that makes it so brilliant and he injects so much pathos and sensitivity into to his performance that his character does end up becoming the emotional center of the film.
If there are any areas where the film does falter it’s that the story does feel somewhat predictable and towards the latter half the film loses considerable momentum, but 99 Homes is nonetheless, a potent and consistently engaging drama that deserves to be seen.