"Don't get emotional about real estate."
99 Homes is a powerful drama that resonates with the current economic state of the United States in the same way that Wall Street did in the 80's. Michael Shannon's Rick Carver as a realtor who makes his living by evicting families from their homes and cheating on the bank system, is in a way the modern Gordon Gekko (a character that turned Michael Douglas into an iconic figure for business people around the globe). 99 Homes is a morality play and a film about greed which poses interesting questions as to how far one would go to achieve the American dream. The film could be a great companion to McKay's The Big Short which focused on the housing bubble collapse, although this film focuses exclusively on the real estate brokers who managed to make a fortune upon the disgrace of the hard working blue collar families. Director, Ramin Bahrani, however doesn't try to turn Carver into a charismatic character. He is a greedy, selfish, calculating, and cold blooded man who doesn't care one bit about the families he is evicting from their homes. There is no glorification of his character whatsoever and it truly shows what kind of person you have to be to live with such low morals.
Andrew Garfield's Dennis Nash on the other hand is the character the audience can relate to because he goes through a deep struggle as Carver's protege to accept his new line of work. Dennis was a former construction worker who due to the real estate crisis is left without a job. He lives with his mother, Lynn (Laura Dern), and his young son Connor (Noah Lomax) in the family home he's always grown up in. Unfortunately due to the current economic situation he is evicted from his home by Carver who shows up at his door and gives him two minutes to take his belongings and move out. As much as he hates the situation there isn't anything he can do so he is forced to relocate his family in a nearby cheap motel. After realizing his tools are missing during the eviction, Dennis goes to confront one of Carver's handymen. Dennis arrives at the right time because a crisis ensues and Carver realizes that his construction experience can come in handy. Despite not liking his boss one bit, Dennis begins to realize there is an easy way to make money and he justifies his actions by wanting to give his son a better life. The question then becomes how far Dennis will be willing to go to be like the man he despises.
Ramin Bahrani isn't a director that many people know because he has made several small independent films, but if you were an avid reader of Roger Ebert's film reviews then you know Bahrani was one of those small directors that he had high praise for. That is how I actually ended up hearing about his movies and decided to check out Goodbye Solo, a film focusing on two strangers who form an unlikely bond. Bahrani is passionate about delivering social films and you can see traces of it here in this much bigger film. The cast elevates the material even more as both Andrew Garfield and Michael Shannon deliver superb performances. There was even some talk of Shannon receiving an Oscar nomination, but his work was overlooked once again. 99 Homes works as a morality play but it still is concerned on the social issues present in today's world. It might not have the same character development and dynamics that we saw in Goodbye Solo, but that is because there is so much more suspense and thrills going on here. I personally prefer his smaller films, but this was a memorable film that still remains provocative and resonant in today's economy.