Director Ramin Bahrani (Man Push Cart) puts us dead center (with the emphasis on dead) in the foreclosure business with his new film "99 Homes". The film is a gritty and authentic look at the financial crisis in Florida.
One day, Richard Carver (Michael Shannon ) a granite-faced realtor, knocks on the door accompanied by the cops. Dennis and his family are served an eviction notice by the bank and ordered to leave. Dennis is stupefied; the judge had told him that he had a thirty day window to appeal foreclosure and he interpreted that as a small reprieve.
Carver is terse and unmoved, his body a stone wall. Under hysterics, the three hastily pack under the aloof eyes of the officers. All other belongings are kicked to the curb. The trio move into a sparse day glo motel with no hint of a future. Family tensions rise.
Michael Shannon is at his monstrous best but he is no cartoon villain, only a hard human capitalist at his worst. There is the barest sliver of a heart here, better to call it a sickle.
The primal faced Carver with his sunken brow, toys with Dennis' good nature in a sly manipulation. Who knows what awaits this average guarded man who slopes along with uneven shoulders, a man who still believes in the unshakeble order of right and wrong. Suffice to say, this is similar territory from the dog eat dog realm of "Glengarry Glen Ross." The symbolism of Orlando homes crowded together as matchbooks over a blue sky as Carver grinds his teeth like a nurse shark in beige slacks is right on target. His menace doesn't come with fins but rather the slickness of a sable Infiniti.
Garfield too, is totally realized in his role of an Everyman who is hit--a human tuning fork quivering past any sane frequency.
The film has a deft touch in showing the connection between greed, money and sexual lust. In one scene, during a preamble to oral sex, Carver gyrates and roars like a werewolf on Viagra. The moment is selfishly savage, comical, and even a bit sad.
Melodrama aside, the bite of "99 Homes" is very real and it all points to the most base in ourselves. To see Michael Shannon is to witness a face creased in monetary War for its own sake.
Bahrani expresses his story with well formed anxiety and danger. The first rate acting by Garfield and Shannon, in particular, contain all of the surprise that is necessary. More directly, such voltage is most likely, all that we can humanly handle.
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