Actors: Andrew Garfield, Michael Shannon, Laura Dern, Clancy Brown
Director: Ramin Bahrani
Format: Color, Dubbed, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Studio: Broad Green Pictures
Release Date: February 9, 2016
Run Time: 112 minutes
Somehow 99 Homes got lost in the awards season shuffle, perhaps overshadowed by the similarly themed contender, The Big Short. But while Adam McKay’s unconventional docu-drama looks at the big picture causes of the 2008 crash and its effects on homeowners all over the country, 99 Homes is far narrower in its scope, choosing instead to examine the effects on one man. While this may have worked to the benefit of the film, thanks to a talented cast of actors embodying the roles, they are let down by contrivances in the screenplay that are transparent (and slightly exploitative) in their attempt to insert suspense into the narrative.
Although the film doesn’t quite work as the thriller it is trying to be, the dramatic elements are strengthened by the two leading performances. Andrew Garfield gives the most as a broken down single father named Dennis Nash, whose efforts to keep his family home are in vain. When he is evicted by a ruthless businessman named Rick Carver (Michael Shannon), Nash is forced to move his son (Noah Lomax) and mother (Laura Dern) into a motel. Desperate to find a way back into his home, Nash takes the only job available to him, working for Carver kicking others in the same situation out of their homes. From here on out, the narrative is something of a real estate Training Day, with Nash discovering all of the ways that rules are broken by the greedy men at the top.
Nash begins to succeed in the dirty business of buying foreclosed homes and the story begins to resemble a gangster narrative. Corruption has its benefits, but the audience is already preconditioned to see that morality must eventually win over. Though there are endless scenes of fantastic performances between Garfield and Shannon, the screenplay from Amir Naderi and director Ramin Bahrani forces them down unconvincing and unfocused paths. Subplots such as Nash keeping his job a secret from his mother and son feel equal parts unnecessary and perfunctory. When the film finally ends it doesn’t feel as though the larger issues have been justly addressed, but I suppose that’s where The Big Short comes.
The Blu-ray only includes a commentary track and single deleted scene, though it has been listed as a “specially selected deleted scene.” The commentary track includes director Bahrani and co-writer Naderi.
Entertainment Value: 8/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 7.5/10
Historical Significance: 7/10