Michael Shannon is no stranger to playing strange and intriguingly odd characters. He does this with menace and a leering gaze that can sometimes send a chill down your spine. What I appreciate about his acting ability is that he is unafraid to play characters that are not likable but make them worth investing our time into. He might be a scalawag, but we still like him for some reason. 99 Homes is a perfect example of what I am referring to.
Shannon plays Richard Carver, a wealthy and driven real estate mogul who swoops down and snatches up foreclosed homes, by evicting the family that is behind on their payments. He then does some wheeling and dealing in ways I will not reveal here, and makes a killing. He makes it look easy, but he is cold. He falsely fains good will to help the family pack up what they can to get them off of the property, but when it is all said and done, he could not care less. He is about the dollar.
Carver evicts a young, single father named Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield). Dennis lives with his mother, Lynn (Laura Dern) and his son, Connor (Noah Lomax). Lynn is a hairdresser and uses their foreclosed home as her hair dressing studio and it is their family home since Dennis was a baby so it is a property that has emotional attachment for the Nash family. “Don’t get emotionally attached to real estate. It is just a box. The world is full of them,” Carver tells Dennis. I was fully expecting George Carlin’s bit about what houses are for; “A place for your stuff, while you go out and get……more stuff!”
Dennis is a solid construction worker, works hard and through a series of events ends up working for Carver. They have an uneasy relationship, but for the sake of business, they exist as partners, so to speak. Nash doing Carver’s bidding, they generate some terrific success, but the walls begin to close on Nash. Question is will he get out before the hammer falls; literally and figuratively? Or is Nash in too deep to save himself?
99 Homes is a well written and directed psychological drama and is exceedingly well acted by Shannon (who was nominated for a Golden Globe for this performance) and even Garfield who has not always made a good impression to me, is quite good. His character is angry and feels betrayed but when he teams up with Carver he seems to find energy and starts to become the very same type of man Carver is. These are both men who seem resigned to be the kind of people they are. They have no friends and seem to hate themselves but grow to know each other as two guys stewing in their own private Hells. They seem to find a kind of peaceful solace when they are together. Both Shannon and Garfield play off of each other well and their relationship is believable and very well handled. Nothing seems forced and the film’s dialogue is sharp and well researched. 99 Homes, by and large, knows its material.
Ramin Bahrani and Bahareh Azimi’s story seems authentic and real and the script by Bahrani and Amir Naderi is clever and never goes over the top. It respects the subject matter and handles it beautifully. Ramin Bahrani who is also the director, keeps the film’s energy amped up and cuts Shannon loose much to the viewer’s pleasure. Shannon is filled with a nervous intensity that makes him a joy to watch and Dern (still quite lovely playing mature roles, too) is effective as Dennis’s moral compass. I particularly liked Anthony Partos and Matteo Zingales’s score which is very beautiful. It enhances the story and gives it depth.
99 Homes was made in 2014 but did not find a release date until the middle of last year. It has now found its way to our homes and it is worth checking out. Director Bahrani dedicated 99 Homes to film critic, Roger Ebert, who died in 2013. It is a classy and fitting dedication to a man who would have liked and appreciated 99 Homes as much as I did.
99 Homes- **** out of 5
99 Homes- Rated R for foul language and adult situations
99 Homes- Run Time is 112 minutes
99 Homes is now currently out on DVD and On Demand