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99 Homes (2014)
Blu-ray Disc Released: 2/9/2016
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 2/18/2016
In my recent review forThe Danish Girl, I wrote about how the idea of using incidents from the past to tackle modern topics has come back into vogue. Using this methods, filmmakers can create a period piece which is actually addressing a hot-button issue from today without coming right out and saying it. However, there are still those who want to approach today's problems head-on. When the housing crash occurred in 2008, it effected many Americans, some of whom are still feeling the sting of this today. 99 Homes takes us to the frontlines of this event to see how certain individuals decided to spin this crisis.
It's 2010 and Rick Carver is a master of real estate in Orlando. The housing crisis has left many houses vacant and he is snatching them up. But, the real money comes in working with banks to foreclose on homes, evict the tenants, and then flip the property. Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield) has been having trouble finding work in construction (no one is building houses and those who are can't pay) and he knows that he's behind in his mortgage payments. Despite going to court to try and get assistance with this, he awakens one morning to find Rick Carver and two sheriff's deputies at his door. Suddenly, Dennis, his mother, Lynn (Laura Dern), and his son, Connor (Noah Lomax), find themselves homeless and forced to live in a motel. Dennis goes to confront Carver about this and is surprised when the realtor offers him a job. Soon, Dennis is helping to clean out and repair foreclosed houses. As his experience grows, Carver gives him more responsibilities. Will Dennis be able to cash in on this crisis as well?
If you are looking for a troubling, depressing movie which raises a lot of moral questions, then you've come to the right place. The Big Short apparently looks at the housing crisis from the perspective of financial experts who saw the problems coming and made decisions on how to approach it. 99 Homes takes place on the ground and we are confronted with everyday Americans who are feeling the pinch of this event. The movie doesn't pull any punches in portraying how when it's eviction day, people must vacate their homes, grabbing what belongings they can, before the authorities force them to leave. Many of these individual had attempted to make arrangements with lawyers or judges in order to slow this procedure, but clearly Carver and the banks had other plans, and the people are often tossed without warning. We'll talk more about the acting in a moment, but it really shines through when we witness the lost and despondent faces of those who have just been kicked out of their homes. In something reminiscent of The Grapes of Wrath, those lost souls migrate to motels with all of their material possessions in hopes of finding some sort of refuge.
As if all of this wasn't harrowing enough, the movie then takes us on the moral journey of Dennis. Out of work and out of his home, Dennis is a desperate man, so he can't say no when Carver offers him cash. This deal with the devil only grows in nature, as Dennis is saddled with more and more tasks, some of which are clearly unethical, if not illegal. But, the more work he does and the more questionable the task, the more money he gets from Carver. Soon, Dennis begins to visualize buying back his house. However, Dennis is not like Carver. He has a soul and watching people being thrown out of their houses, just like he was, begins to take a toll on him.
Michael Shannon does a fantastic job here of portraying a 21st century villain. While he does carry a gun for protection from unruly homeowners, his real weapon is his cell phone, which is always to his ear, as he works on the next deal. With e-cig in hand, Carver travels Orlando (a place many consider to be a dream destination) destroying lives right and left. Shannon has obviously made a career of playing heavies, but he really shines here. Andrew Garfield, who I felt was woefully miscast inThe Amazing Spider-Man movies, does a good job as well, as he portrays a man who is truly trapped.
Again, 99 Homes is not an easy movie to watch, as we are asked to witness one eviction after another, some of which are quite difficult. The movie is well-paced, but it's a little too lean at times, as it jumps right into the story assuming that we are familiar with the housing crisis and it skips over some important details at times. (We learn that at least one of the evictees is unemployed, but why weren't the others making payments?) The movie shows the evil face of greed and illustrates how easily one can manipulate the system if one knows how to do it. Many movies are labeled as "important" due to their social causes. 99 Homes is important because is shows just how easily everything can go wrong.
99 Homes also doesn't question the zoning ordinances of an in-home salon on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Broadgreen Pictures. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no notable grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look good and the film wisely doesn't over-indulge in Florida pastels and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is notable and the depth is acceptable. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.0 Mbps. The track delivers clear dialogue and sound effects. Being a drama, we don't get a load of noticeable audio effects here. A part scene and the finale provide some surround sound and stereo effects. But, for the most part, we are treated to intelligible dialogue coming from the center channel.
The 99 Homes Blu-ray Disc contains two extra features. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Ramin Bahrani. There is one DELETED SCENE which runs about 90 seconds. It is actually just a longer version of a scene from the middle of the film. This scene is not accessible from the main menu -- it runs after the conclusion of the end credits.
Review Copyright 2016 by Mike Long