Despite being set five years ago, this indictment of home-owning hell in Florida, USA will have an uncomfortable resonance with local audiences living under the cloud of New Zealand’s present property crisis.
The harrowing tone of 99 Homes is set in the film’s opening moments, as a well-executed tracking shot weaves us around the savage storm being stirred up by our villain: real estate broker Rick Carver (an expectedly superb performance from Michael Shannon, Boardwalk Empire). The aptly named Carver dispassionately evicts hardworking everymen and their families, bringing the local police along (who kowtow and call him “Boss”) before implementing a plan to strip their homes of chattels and make a heap of cash for himself. When Dennis Nash (an excellent Andrew Garfield, more The Social Network than Amazing Spider-Man) is given 30 days by the Court to sort out his own money woes, Carver makes him an offer he probably should refuse – but for perhaps understandable reasons, Nash doesn’t.
99 Homes serves a different sort of sour taste to The Wolf of Wall Street – whereas Scorsese’s glorification of capitalist grotesquerie did not touch on the fraudster’s victims, here the fallout which sees ordinary people lose their homes, their livelihoods and all hope is much more gruesome and the harsh message utterly unavoidable.
Writer-director Ramin Bahrani has built a solid 15-year career out of projects you probably haven’t seen, but his ability to deliver a feisty, excoriating narrative through two super central performances should see his fortunes rise. This project is unmissable.