99 Homes for the Price of Your Soul
99 Homes: “R” (1 h. 52 min.)
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Michael Shannon, Laura Dern, Noah Lomax, Luke Sexton
Directed by: Ramin Bahrani
Death of the American Dream
There was a time, when everyone in the U.S. knew that honest hard work was the way to go. We were always told that if we worked hard, we will achieve the American dream. Unfortunately, in 2007 it was very visibly demonstrated for all to see, that the actually achieving the American dream was all but gone. It wasn’t so much dead as rolling around on the ground, gasping for air, beaten to near death by Wall Street and the 1%. This is the set-up for this film, which takes place in sunny Orlando, Florida. Here we meet construction worker Dennis Nash (Garfield), who learns the harsh lessons of the world the hard way when he and his family are evicted from their home in the opening minutes of the film.
99 Homes, DVD
The back story
The eviction is led by a charismatic, gun-toting real-estate broker, Rick Carver (Shannon) who has made a living of tossing people from their homes. Nash and his family are unceremoniously evicted by Carver who is accompanied by the local sheriffs. Humiliated and now homeless, Nash has no choice but to move his mom and nine-year old son into a shabby, dangerous motel. As far as the earnest and desperate Nash is concerned, all is lost. That is, until a unique and unexpected opportunity arises for Nash to “strike a deal with the devil” as it were.
99 Homes, trailer
Deal with the Devil
Due to an unexpected turn of events, Nash begins working for Carver in a desperate attempt to re-acquire his home. Carver convinces Nash into not only doing construction work for him (moving him from clearing a re-possessed homes of sludge left behind by an evicted homeowner to actually handling the evections himself). Needless to say, this launches Nash into the risky world of scamming and stealing from the banks and the government; Carver (who is not a totally unsympathetic character) teaches Nash how the rich get richer. Soon, Nash is living a double life as he hides his new boss and job from his family, while still attempting to minister to his family’s needs. A quick study, Nash rises quickly and soon begins making real money. Well, as soon as he gets his hands on some ready cash, he begins to dream bigger.
Eat the Rich
Is America still Great?
Unfortunately for Nash, there is a real cost to his new lifestyle (“What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” Mark 8:36). As Nash gets deeper into the mix the level of things he does for Carver increase, getting more and more dirt on Nash’s hands (removing appliances left behind and reselling them back to the bank, getting his workers to pose as homeowners signing over abandoned homes to the bank with Nash skimming part of the “Keys for Cash“ money off the top, etc.). Eventually, on Carver’s orders, Nash must evict honest families from their homes — just as it happened to him. It is at this point that Nash’s conscience begins to gnaw at him...however as his mother and son need a home, he continues to work for carver.
The end is nigh
As the film approaches its dramatic high stakes climax, with a 100-home deal on the line, Nash is forced to choose between surreptitiously destroying an honest man for the ultimate win of bigger and better (even if it includes a darker, more sinister version of the ever elusive American Dream) or risking it all by going against Carver and achieving his own personal redemption.
Portrait of a Desperate Man
The Path to Redemption?
For those Americans who have suffered through the terrible trauma of losing our homes, the breaking up of our marriage, the despair of not enough work to pay our (ever mounting bills), to those of us who have gone through the heartbreak of doors endlessly being slammed on our collective faces, and watched the death-rattle of the American middle class as we become the working-class poor, stumbling from paycheck-to-paycheck, and watch this once great nation enter its death throes. We highly recommend this film, especially to people who ae not only going through the problems facing Nash, but to those who caused it. Yes, it is extremely difficult to watch — a modern day, 21st century horror story of our own making that is far more frightening than zombies, vampires and werewülves (oh my), but one that most assuredly should be watched.
Risk vs Cost
© 2016 Robert J Sodaro