Review: 99 Homes

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Originally screening as part of the NZ International Film Festival, 99 Homes returns to cinemas on October 29.

REVIEW: 

99 HOMES (M, 112mins) Directed by Ramin Bahrani ★★★★1/2

He might help build houses for a living, but carpenter Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield) is about to lose his own.

Having missed three mortgage payments, the solo Dad now finds himself without a job and two weeks wages out of pocket when the building company he works for goes bust.

To make matters worse, the bank who told him not to pay has now decided to foreclose his loan. A court order goes against him and although he has 30 days to file an appeal, two cops and Recover Realty's Rick Carver (Michael Shannon) arrive on his doorstep the next morning to inform him he has only two minutes to pack his things. Instantly changing the locks, Carver and his crew inform Nash and his family they have 24 hours to move their stuff and raise the money owed or their home will no longer be theirs.

Relocating to a motel where half the residents are in a similar situation, Nash plots his next move. Realising he's forgotten his work tools, he returns to the house and, after an altercation with Carver and company, somehow finds himself contemplating a job with them.

A heady mix of Faustian drama and social realism ripped-from-the-headlines, writer-director Ramin Bahrani's film is both sobering and rage-inducing viewing. Evoking memories of the likes of Margin Call, Wall Street and A Most Violent Year, 99 Homes is a complex and compelling story of innocence corrupted and what one man will do to keep his American Dream alive.

Andrew Garfield and Michael Shannon star in 99 Homes.
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Andrew Garfield and Michael Shannon star in 99 Homes.

But while Aussie duo Antony Partos (Sherpa, TV's Rake) and Matteo Zingales' (TV's Secrets & Lies) driving soundtrack delivers the requisite tension and the twisty-turny taut plotting delights, 99 Homes is really a tale of two actors. Best known as the most recent Spider-Man and the put-upon Eduardo Saverin in The Social Network, Garfield creates a likeable, identifiable everyman who wears his heart on his sleeve and his emotions all over his face. He's up against the bear-like Shannon (Revolutionary Road, Take Shelter) whose reptilian Carver is the next stage in capitalist evolution from Wall Street's Gordon Gecko and yet somehow is able to justify his actions to his new protégé and the audience. "They all got a sob story, but the law is the law", "American doesn't bail out losers" and "who wouldn't rather put people in their homes than drag them out" are just some of the epithets espoused by Carver, who, through Shannon's committed, charismatic performance manages to persuade us that he is as much a victim of the current economic situation as the families he is helping turf out of their homes.  

It all adds up to a powerful and provocative slice of cinema.

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 - Stuff

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