VOD film review: 99 Homes
James R | On 25, May 2016
Director: Ramin Bahrani
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Michael Shannon
Watch 99 Homes online in the UK: BBC iPlayer / Apple TV (iTunes) / TalkTalk TV / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Rakuten TV / Google Play
Banks are arguably the most hated institution in the world these days, apart from estate agents. 99 Homes, a film about both, has enough evil power to rival a Marvel blockbuster, but with one key difference: these are the kind of villains who actually exist in real life.
The film is set in 2010, a time when the housing crash was still echoing across the country: people were falling behind on their mortgages and banks were foreclosing properties. Michael Shannon plays Rick Carver, the kind of despicable monster who tosses people into the street only to do up their homes and sell them on at a profit. It’s something that happens to Dennis Nash (Garfield), after a heated court battle and an even more heated confrontation on their doorstep. It’s a horrifying, traumatising event – made all the more so because it unfolds within the first 15 minutes of the movie, leaving us, and Nash’s mother and son, reeling in shock. The film never lets us get our bearings back.
We witness that the same, sudden confrontation over and over – and the movie milks it for every drop of trauma he can. It’s a testament to the supporting cast, most of whom we only see for a few minutes in passing, but also writer/director Ramin Bahrani’s knack for finding the personal fallout in a national crisis – 28,900 homes were repossessed across the UK in 2013 and that blunt, brief process is exactly what these evictees experience. the script teasing out their universal reactions to individual circumstances (none of them are ready or believe they will actually be turfed out, even after several warning letters).
If the ensemble of dispossessed faces make their mark, they’re only outshone by the two leads: Shannon was nominated for a Golden Globe and SAG Award, but both he and Garfield should have been up for Oscars, delivering conflicted performances that wrench your gut as well as twist your morals.
Shannon is more lizard than man as Carver, but he isn’t just a one-note villain; even he had his life transformd by the crisis (he didn’t use to trade in other people’s homelessness) and sees that the economy is uneven – not everyone can have everything, so to get something for yourself, you have to screw over other people. “America doesn’t bail out losers,” he declares, with a scowl.
Garfield, on the other hand, is heartbreakingly vulnerable as Dennis, who ends up so desperate to support his son (Noah Lomax) and mother (Laura Dern) that he agrees to work for Carver and help to renovate repossessed homes to sell them on for a profit. Bahrani and his co-writer, Amir Naderi, have done their research: their story goes into the detail of how the evictees and the banks are screwed over, with Carver not just flipping the homes but stealing appliances to then resell to the lenders.
The more Dennis does, the more he becomes compromised – a compelling journey that Bahrani also uses to present the trauma of foreclosures from the other side of the fence, as Dennis repeatedly encounters people like himself. And yet, no matter how immoral his actions become, he still remains fixated on the idea of owning a home more than anything else – a fact that gives the whole tale a real emotional impact. A perfect companion piece for The Big Short, this is a call for justice as well as a reminder of this most banal of financial evils. Even now, almost 10 years after the recession hit, this is still happening around the world. 99 homes? They’re just a drop in the water.
99 Homes is available on BBC iPlayer until 14th February 2021