The notion of having a young naïve enterprising individual enter into a world he doesn’t want to be a part of, only to then, almost unwittingly, rise up the ranks to a point of no return, has spawned some treasured cinematic offerings. From The Godfather to Goodfellas, more often than not these tales will depict more perilous vocations, such as the Mafia. While abiding affectionately to the beats of the thriller genre, Ramin Bahrani’s 99 Homes is compelling and feels as significantly implicative, despite the fact this is not the Mafia that our protagonist has fallen into, but real estate.
The aforementioned lead belongs to Andrew Garfield, playing single father Dennis Nash, who is evicted from his family home alongside his mother (Laura Dern) and young son (Noah Lomax) by the ruthless and ravenous real estate broker Rick Carver (Michael Shannon). The family move to a downtrodden motel nearby, while Dennis remains adamant he can make enough money, somehow, to buy their home back. But what he wasn’t expecting, was to dance with the devil himself, as Rick offers the eager labourer the chance to work with him, doing odd jobs here and there for cash. In a position where he’s unable to decline, Dennis falls deeper into this world and this corrupt company – but as the money continues to flow, he’s left in a moral dilemma, and he has to become the man who kicks people out of their homes: the man he only recently despised.
Though at its core 99 Homes is a character driven drama, it’s also a riveting thriller that explores such a fascinating area in how the economic crash affected the working classes. It places this narrative in a world we know so well, where buying and subsequently maintaining property is no easy task. Margin Call was a fine look into these events, but in how it affected those directly involved: the bankers themselves. But what’s even more intriguing is how the crash affects innocent people just going about their days. Killing Them Softly did tread over such ground, but in a far more subtle manner, it’s the overriding theme in 99 Homes.
Garfield turns in a hugely empathetic turn, and while making mistakes along the way, we always see it from his point of view, to find the method in the madness – while Shannon turns in one of his finest displays in a long while, and it’s his job to bring the madness to the method, and he does not disappoint. Put the two performances together and you’re left with a film that is a completely riveting watch, and one that will have you engaged from start to finish.