When Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield) defaults on his mortgage payments, real estate mogul Rick Carver (Michael Shannon) takes his house. Fighting to get a set of tools back from Carver’s work crew, Nash is offered various roles that allow him to climb from gofer to righthand man. But while Carver appears to have taken ownership of Nash’s home fairly, his methods prove to be morally corrupt. Can Nash find a way to save his family or will he ultimately lose his soul?
Ramin Bahrani directs a high class acting crew around a small picture drama that pulls back the curtain at the housing market’s struggles. It’s the opposite of The Big Short: rather than flashy casts and special guest star cameos, 99 Homes focuses on the specifics of an Orlando community in a way that shows the way that money and power corrupt.
Garfield plays the put-upon ex-construction worker well, while Shannon plays the grim-faced moneymaker in a cold and calculating way that shows the dangers of high finance. The darkness isn’t always obvious but it’s present in ways that wrap Nash in its tendrils and pull him in above his head. By the time the movie reaches its fever pitch, there isn’t much hope left for Nash and his family. He’s covered in Carver’s shadows, and finally, his corruption.
This movie could be financial or relational or … whatever “sin” issue you want to consider. In ways Nash didn’t see, Carver lures him in and manipulates him, until Nash can’t see the ways he once knew the truth. It’s only when he’s faced with a mirror image of himself that he chooses to make a decision: will he reject his “sin nature” acquired through the deal with the “devil,” or turn a blind eye to others suffering the same fate?