HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: 99 Homes
HTS Overall Score:75
During the 2006-2007 time period the U.S. suffered one of the most disastrous housing crashes in recorded history. A bubble had been created through poor financial loaning techniques and a lack of oversight that created a house of cards that could only crash at some point. Around the 2007 mark the house of cards created by places like Fannie May Lending crumbled down with a resounding echo. Lenders went out of business overnight and the money making market was no longer in BUILDING houses, but in taking them away as banks foreclosed left and right. In fact, places like Detroit have not recovered to this very day. Whole sections of cities were closed down as people from every walk of life saw their houses devalued by a third or more in a matter of a few short months. “99 Homes” takes place in 2010, just a few years after the housing bubble collapsed and we get to see just what type of devastation happened to the American dream.
The film opens with a haunting scene of a suicide that is filmed with one shot for the duration of the scene. A man has just blown his brains out all over his home and police are everywhere. A shark faced man in cheap blue suit stand in the background, emotionlessly taking in the situation. What has happened is that this poor man has just taken his own life due to his family being evicted after the financial lending bubble collapsed. The shark faced man is Rick Carver, or Rick Carver Realty, (played by Michael Shannon) and he is there to make off with a killing repossessing the property. We skip ahead a bit and we meet Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield), a young single father who has just been laid off at his construction job recently. He, his son, and his mother Lynn (Laura Dern) are kicked out of their family home that has stayed in the family since before Dennis was born. Forced to live in a hotel, Dennis takes the only job he can find. Working for Rick Carver doing menial tasks.
Realizing the potential in Dennis, Rick starts to give the embarrassed father more responsibility. The thing is, this responsibility isn’t exactly always legal. While Rick is a shrewd businessman, he is also a cold one in the ethics department. Stealing form the repossessions in order to get contracts to repair and replace, he makes a fortune off of Fannie May, who has just made a bigger fortune off of foreclosing one the poor people who have lost their livelihoods. Climbing up the ladder with Rick, Dennis starts to profit handsomely form his arrangement with the crooked realtor. Soon even Dennis can’t recognize himself. Tapped out of his original intentions, he is turning into the very monster that he so hated at the beginning of the movie. The struggle is real, and he still has a piece of his soul, but that piece is shrinking by the day. As the credits being to role, he faces a crucial point in his life. Can he squelch that last bit of soul left or try and redeem himself?
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=64978[/img]Director Ramin Bahrani has a way with taking on the American Dream from the point of view of the disenfranchised. His films always show a man/woman who has been beaten down in life and treated like trash. However, despite the harsh settings, there is always a sense of hope and longing in his films. The same is true of “99 Homes”. We are very obviously being shown scenes that are meant to enrage and disturb the viewer. The evictions are shown in such a heartbreaking way that you truly feel for the people who are losing their homes. Each one of them were family men and women who are having their lives ripped up from around them and completely thrown on their ear. Dennis is one such man, but a man who has been given an impossible choice. Does he ignore his family and stay with his pride, or swallow it and work for the very man who threw him out of his own home. Each obstacle he faces leads him down a road that slowly morphs the young man into a semblance of the man holding the power.
Despite this harsh bit or true reality, Bahrani weaves in pieces of hope and goodness into the film. Nash is given opportunities and those opportunities allow him to say “enough is enough!” and end his suffering, as well as bring some sort of justice to the ones behind this, even if it is mostly futile. The ending of the film is left vague enough so that the viewer is forced to wonder just who is really going to take the rap for all of this. Is Carver going to finally get his comeuppance, or will he escape unscathed while his minion takes the fall? There’s just enough ambiguity to leave you feeling satisfied, yet oddly unnerved and uncomfortable. Especially knowing how many people who did what Carver did got away with so much in hind sight. Some scenes are played a little over the top and thick with melodrama, but they are used to make a point. A point that drives home the plight of the more disenfranchised people who lost their homes, as well as several sections of the film that bring up the oppositions side. The point of people buying homes they couldn’t afford, or taking loans that put them over a barrel due to some unscrupulous people allowing loans to go through that never should have been approved.
Rated R for language including some sexual references, and a brief violent image
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=64986[/img]“99 Homes” comes to Blu-ray with a very impressive 2.40:1 AVC encoded Blu-ray. A Blu-ray that is actually a Best Buy exclusive, as the DVD is the only disc available outside of Best Buy (at least for the moment). Given a glossy look, the film is tinged with green and amber tones, and extremely bright and powerful with levels. I’ve noticed this more and more recently, but whites in the color scale appear to be pushed more and more to the front, and here they can be almost glowing in nature. Those same brilliant whites can be a bit TOO overpowering at times, making objects almost glow and shimmer in the light. Contrast is a bit high due to the excessive white levels, but skin tones remain fairly accurate. Fine detail is fantastic most of the time, and many times borders amazing. However there is a layer of softness over the film for quite a bit, and that tends to rob some of the fine detail present. Blacks are good, although a bit washed out due to the high white levels, and show off some nice shadow detail.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=64994[/img]The budget for “99 Homes” is only a meager $8 million, and coupled with the fact that this is a drama, you can almost predict the sound design before even hearing it. Naturally front heavy, the track has great vocals and solid balance with the rest of the track, but not a whole lot of presence in the rear channels. Some of the sounds of Nash’s truck will rumble and roar in the background, and the sounds of people sobbing as they’re evicted shifts the directionality to the rear, but a majority of the time the center channel takes the brunt of the work. The LFE adds some power to a few scenes, especially vehicles and when the score intensifies, but otherwise it’s a fairly mild low end.
• Director's commentary with a specially selected deleted scene
“99 Homes” is a powerful indie drama that really takes a hard look at a time period that nearly devastated the U.S. economy. Also a powerful lesson that taking unnecessary risks with your financials is a sure fire way to reap the poor rewards of greed. It’s both hopeful and saddening, but ultimately a sobering look at human greed and the havoc that it can wreak on people. Audio and video are impressive for the release, both doing quite well considering the extremely low budget. The commentary is really insightful in delving into the director’s thoughts and intentions behind the movie, and while it is the only extras on the disc, it’s well worth checking out. Recommended
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Michael Shannon, Laura Dern
Directed by: Ramin Bahrani
Written by: Ramin Bahrani
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Main Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1, Spanish DTS 5.1
Studio: Broad Green Pictures
Runtime: 112 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: February 9th 2016
More about Mike