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99 Homes: Movie Review

A little late I know, but better later than never, right?

99 Houses was a very different movie from anything I have ever seen. It stars Andrew Garfield, the short lived Spider-Man star. It also stars Michael Shannon, the guy who played General Zod in Man of Steel, but you might also mention him from a dozen other works like 8 Mile, Iceman, and Boardwalk Empire.

The story is about Dennis Nash (Garfield), a young blue collar man trying to single handedly raise his son and his mom in a rough economy, in the midst of losing their home. That wasn’t a typo.  Dennis practically raises his mom, who acts more like an irresponsible 19 year old daughter who dropped out of high school and is going to a trade school, than a mother.

Nash loses his home to the bank, and his eviction is overseen by a strict, no nonsense real estate developer, Rick Carver, played perfectly by Michael Shannon.

After initially losing his home, Nash despises Carver and naturally sees him as the person responsible for his misfortune. However a chance encounter with some of Carver’s home-flipping laborers turns into small time, small paying labor jobs. In short time Dennis Nash has a lucrative career not only working for his former nemesis, but along side him.

In the trailers, Shannon’s character was portrayed as this evil, corporate, heartless business tycoon who steps on the innocent, hard working little man Dennis Nash, for his own greed. After all, that is the song being sung by almost everyone in the country these days, regardless of your political affiliation. The narrative being painted today is that homeowners are all saints who have done no wrong, and financial institutions are all secretly owned by Hitler death squads.

You definitely do sympathize with Garfield’s character. The movie pulls no punches in the heart area, when you are forced to watch this dad get kicked to his hands and knees, and struggle to support his family.

But interestingly, over the course of the movie the character I really took a liking to, was Shannon’s character Rick Carver. Yes, I liked the “bad guy” more than the “good guy”. Was the guy a stone cold hard ass? Yes. But he was also a smart, hard working son of a bitch. He was also a loving father who wanted nothing but the best for his children. But he also did everything he could to teach Nash how to earn, spend,and invest his money properly.

Without spoiling the movie too much, this is perhaps the most interesting part of the film. Despite our cultural views of bankers, businessmen, and wall street, this movie attempts to show you a different angle, and in many ways approaches a paradigm shift between the contemporary views of “good guy” and “bad guy”. In fact, I didn’t think Carver was the bad guy in the movie at all until a hiccup at the very end of the movie, but again, no spoilers here!

Our two leads did an amazing job. You forget about Garfield’s most recent web slinging hurrah and you really do see him as a father trying desperately to make ends meet for his family. His grief, his stress, and his struggles are portrayed perfectly, and you feel every ounce of emotion Garfield brings to the set.

Michael Shannon of course needs no introduction. This actor has always floated in that narrow corridor between A-list and B-list actor. He acts better than most A-list stars but just could never get the cinematic boost needed to rise into full stardom. Nonetheless, I couldn’t have thought of a better actor to take on the roll of the tough as nails Rick Carver. Shannon’s intensity, and rigidity make him a one man force of nature, and his presence on screen is heart stopping.

I highly recommend 99 Homes to anyone who wants to see a genuinely well written, well casted, well acted, and well directed movie. No negative feedback about this movie whatsoever. 5 stars.

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