When I first heard what 99 Homes was about, I questioned the casting of Andrew Garfield as a single father struggling to take care of his son. I mean, he just came off of those forgettable Spider-man movies playing a high school aged Peter Parker, so few would expect to see him in a role of a man who’s forced into that level of maturity. Then again, that could be the very reason why he took the chance to star in this film. He may feel the need to move on (and run) from the stuff he was doing.
To get more specific, Garfield stars as Dennis Nash, a young father looking for a way to keep his family’s home from going to someone else after they are evicted. Short on options, his only chance to even find work turns out to be with Richard Carver (Michael Shannon), the real estate who left them looking for a place to stay. At first, him taking on the job starts out as a simple way to make enough money to earn the house back, but as time goes on, Nash finds himself heading to a potentially destructive place he never imagined going.
Much to my surprise and delight, Garfield is actually pretty good here as he shows off some legitimate acting talent. When the film requires that he be nervous, he’s able to do it. When it needs him to show a bit of anger, he handles that. Whenever he has to show joy or any other emotion, Garfield showcases those ordinary human traits as well as you would hope an actor would be able to. Going by what I saw with my own eyes, it’s clear that I underestimated him as an actor. I’m not taking any blame for that. I’m putting it all on those two Amazing Spider-Man movies.
On the other hand, Michael Shannon has proven to be able to play the kind of character he is portraying here. He’s one of those guys who’s often asked to be the grimy personality with questionable tactics and character flaws so this is nothing new to him. What he does here plays well as he becomes an amusing person delivering funny yet brutal honesty while wearing a straight face through it all.
On the surface, 99 Homes looks like the kind of movie that usually scares me before I see it since it appears to be one of those talk heavy flicks that will last for around two hours. Those things can and will bore many, but Bahrani and the team are able to avoid those issues here by actually giving the characters something to actually do. Instead of just hearing them talk, we see them take action as we watch the two leads get into things.
Believe it or not, one of the charming aspects of 99 Homes is the devious behaviors that these guys take on throughout large amounts of the film. Rarely ever is that considered a positive trait, but it works here because they’re sometimes like kids playing tricks on people except they’re making the lives of their targets more difficult. While you’re watching them, you get a close look at them and their motives while also trying not to forget how they’re affecting people.
99 Homes is the kind of movie that doesn’t receive the sort of attention that it should. As a matter of fact, these are the exact types of feature films that would have been viewed as respectable money makers for the large studios back before CGI seemingly became more important than character development. As of right now, movies like this rarely get the backing of the “big boys.” That’s why it’s good to have the newer studios like Broad Green Pictures around to get these pictures out there for us to watch.
Not that there’s anything wrong with special effects, but I’m one of those kinds of cinephiles who happens to like movies that rely on characters and great storytelling more than anything. If you’re one of those people who appreciates those things, it’s hard to go wrong with 99 Homes. As a film, it actually makes me wish that Rahim Bahrani decided to take the time to direct more than he does. He’s made a bunch of small films with a serious tone that show just what he can do.
Director: Ramin Bahrani
Film Length: 112 minutes
Release Date: October 2, 2015
Distributor: Broad Green Pictures