99 Homes review by Adrijan Arsovski - Cinema Paradiso
No more visceral than your typical economic collapse documentary, yet engaging and real-looking enough to make everyone watching root and/or hate the presented characters – 99 Homes is the perfect take on how the mortgage crisis looked and felt like from the other side (that is - the realtors one).
99 Homes starts strong, putting the audience close to the main protagonist Dennis Nash’s life (Andrew Garfield), his dreams, hopes, desires. Moreover, the audience is expected to root for him, since he’s an archetype of your typical American worker who struggles to meet ends in life on a daily basis. What’s devastating however is that in the sole beginning, Dennis loses his house due to a loan he cannot repay in time, forcing him, his mother and his son to pack their belongings and go and live in a motel not far away from his previous home. And then there’s Rick Carver (Michael Shannon), whose presence seems to only add insult to injury, but his ruthless persona and cold-hearted demeanor as an eviction agent leaves us wanting more from his character than initially what meets the eye.
What follows are common, yet captivating twists and turns that elevate the experience to a whole new height of real cinema that’s neither documentary, nor mockumentary, but an in-between paradigm of the modern capitalist system with all its flaws and unregulated policies. This doesn’t last long however, and quickly the movie loses pace somewhere after its 1-st third. Michael Shannon outshines everyone all throughout - as if that hasn’t been the case in other roles he starred in. Andrew Garfield gives an overall good performance, with ups and downs that sometime elicit melodrama in places we don’t want’ to actually see. The supporting cast is there to support and nothing more.
Put aside acting, and we stumble upon the portrayal of several archetypes of characters, but not in the sense of anything negative or the like. See, the formula is all there: a good guy who loses everything and reaches for desperate measures, the authoritative cynic who rejects the morals of society and makes his own agenda instead, the naïve types of people who made the wrong deal and now have to pay for it; in all honesty, director Ramin Bahrani explicitly and unapologetically uses said character models in the bigger picture. The two leads (Shannon and Garfield) are acting in accordance with their morals all throughout, while others not so much – which is probably more a testimony to where the writing budget of the movie went, than anything.
To conclude, 99 Homes’ story is somewhat diluted and its coherence inconsistent – it’s almost like watching two movies amalgamated into one. The visuals are mediocre at best, the music and sounds exist only to accompany the above. Where 99 Homes really shines is the morality of our two mains – the lack thereof and the will to survive and become the system instead of beating it.
For this fact only - 99 Homes deserves your unprecedented attention once.