Rahim Bahrani, a prominent 21st century auteur in American independent cinema, returns with a post-economic meltdown thriller with 99 Homes starring Andrew Garfield and Michael Shannon.
Garfield plays Dennis Nash, a young builder who is in need of work to pay back the loan to his bank before they foreclose and his family, mother (Laura Dern) and young son have to be evicted. Richard Carver, monstrously played by Michael Shannon, is the man who works for the banks to evict people. Carver then buys the house cheap from the bank fits it up by stealing appliances from other houses and then sells for profit by charging the government for his supposed community services.
Upon confronting one of Carver's employees for a supposed theft, Carver offers Nash work on his labour force which quickly grows into a more substantial role becoming Carver's right hand man as they get close to landing a huge development deal. One that could make Nash rich beyond his wildest dreams.
The film has a lot to say about the tumultuous effect the economic crash had on many people, and with the film being set in 2010 gives it the feel of a historical artefact with America now on the mend. However, the screenplay falls too quickly into cliche with Nash choosing to get in bed with the devil too quickly due to the allure of financial wealth, and his decision to hide his means of earning from his family is too obvious a plot point with inevitable consequences.
Nash is heading for a fall, yet Bahrami chooses not to show the fall fully; there is no comeuppance for Carver per se, instead the film's conclusion is one lacking fulfilment having invested so much time in these characters.
This is a shame considering Shannon adds Carver to his cavalcade of criminals offering such nuggets of truth as, 'America does not bail out losers' to Nash. And whilst Garfield convincingly emotes and projects, notably in a car park showdown with someone he eras evicted, you get the sense that Nash should be closer to Carver's age than the late 20s age he appears to be.
The film could have been a real ear marker for the economic letdown of America but a combination of directorial decisions let down good work by the cast.
99 Homes is out on DVD and Blu-ray from Monday 18th January - http://po.st/99Amzn
I was given a review disc by Think Jam in exchange for an honest review.