Ramin Bahrani’s gripping 99 Homes is driven by powerhouse performances by two very different actors in the form of Michael Shannon and Andrew Garfield. Both turn in efforts that rank with the best in their careers (OK, that’s more of a compliment to Shannon, really), relishing in the ambiguity and spontaneity that Bahrani’s film is bathed in. Powerful drama, edge-of-the-seat thriller, perhaps even a horror to many mortgage holders, 99 Homes serves up the scariest, most watchable film about real estate since Beetlejuice.
Set at ground zero of Florida’s mass foreclosures, the film shows what happens when a property bubble bursts – a faltering economy, cascading unemployment and middle class evictions as homeowners find themselves owing the bank more than their property is worth on the market. On the positive side (for some), it’s a chance to make a buck as the state slides down into a murky frontier-style morass of swindles and strongarm tactics – all backed up by the weight of the law.
Garfield is surprisingly believable as an American tradesman, his accent and affect bang on whether he’s demoralised by his lack of prospects or making the dubious move to work for shady real estate broker Rick Carver (Shannon). As electric as ever, Shannon serves up a nuanced take on what could have been a generic Gordon Gecko role. Watching the pair navigate, and sometimes orchestrate, the misery of others raises fascinating questions about individual and societal ethics; as they circle one another, expect fireworks.
’99 Homes’ Movie Times
Other good films in the same vein: Wall Street, The Last House on the Left, Beetlejuice