99 Homes Review - Go And Hate Michael Shannon As The 1%

Ramin Bahrani finds the real victims of the market crash.

Rating: ˜…˜…˜…˜… The Spider-Man from the rubbish movies and General Zod from Man Of Steel star in a film whose plot has some interesting parallels with True Detective Season 2. But wait! Don't let that less-than-glowing summary fool you - 99 Homes is a pretty great film that sticks the knife into society's total disregard for the poor and twists, showing the extreme extents it takes to escape the spiral of poverty. You'll be sickened, not just by what the film throws up, but by how you begin to accept the character's actions as a necessity. Michael Shannon is Rick Carver, a man in one of the few professions that actually benefitted from the 2008 stock market crash - a real estate agent who specialises in eviction. We're introduced to him as he assesses a suicide in one of his repossessions with a cool, methodical business mind (in that rare long take that actually improves a scene, no less). He's calculating and detached from the sentimentality of those he treads over and, though we later learn his motivations, that really is all you need to know.
One such unlucky 99'er he crosses paths with is Andrew Garfield's Dennis Nash, uprooted when government bureaucracy fails him (a heart-wrenching scene that just goes on and on) and through related circumstances rendered unemployable. Typically you'd expect this to be set up for these two to lock horns, with Nash leading an Occupy-style revolt that brings big business to justice, offering a bright light in a time of recession. Nope! As many people watching will know only too well, money talks, and so we get an uncomfortable, emotionally tricky mentor-student relationship. The 99% bending the knee to the 1% is far too rational a decision, at least when the only other option is poverty, and Ramin Bahrani delights in amping up the moral conflict. Nash is forced to do acts that go against both his own ethics and the law, yet you're made to pity and agree with him at once through the unflinching presentation of sheer desperation (and the booming, Social Network-esque score).
Eventually the unique story makes way for predictable turns and rote moral anguish, and the whole faux-mystery of what the 99 Homes title means literally is rather convenient, which would be less of a takeaway if the build up hadn't been so assured. But while the ending is a bit eye-rolling, it can't take away from the wonderful central pairing. Shannon gives hands-down his best performance yet. Carver is a driven man who aims to live his American Dream by stamping on the wishes of everyone else, no matter what rung on the ladder they may be, which perfectly fits an actor whose growling, coiled style usually sees him reduced to a snarling scenery chewer. He's such a presence that actually much of Garfield's brilliance comes from how Shannon highlights his weaknesses. There's elements of Eduardo Saverin and Peter Parker in Garfield's Florida accent and sense of betrayal, but that aside he too is on top (if opposite) form. Together this unlikely screen duo more than eclipse some blatant filmmaking hiccups. Those superhero missteps are most certainly in the past.
99 Homes is in UK and US cinemas from 25th September.

Film Editor (2014-2016). Loves The Usual Suspects. Hates Transformers 2. Everything else lies somewhere in the middle. Once met the Chuckle Brothers.