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99 Homes Blu-ray Review

99 Homes (2015) movie poster 99 Homes

Theatrical Release: September 25, 2015 / Running Time: 112 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Ramin Bahrani / Writers: Ramin Bahrani (story & screenplay), Bahareh Azimi (story), Amir Naderi (screenplay)

Cast: Andrew Garfield (Dennis Nash), Michael Shannon (Rick Carver), Laura Dern (Lynn Nash), Tim Guinee (Frank Green), Noah Lomax (Connor Nash), Clancy Brown (Mr. William Freeman), Nadiyah Skyy (Tamika), Nicole Barrι (Nicole Carver), J.D. Evermore (Mr. Tanner), Cullen Moss (Bill), Jayson Warner Smith (Jeff), Randy Austin (Sheriff Anderson), Doug Griffin (Officer Dudura)

Buy 99 Homes on Blu-ray exclusively at Best Buy / Buy from Amazon.com: DVD • Instant Video

99 Homes opens with a powerful, nimbly-shot crime scene. A man has committed suicide in his bathroom to the horror of his wife and children. Police called to the house get a terse comment from Rick Carver (Michael Shannon),
whose arrival on behalf of the bank that has foreclosed on the home to evict the family prompted the fatal gunshot. Carver is not in good spirits, but it's on to the next one: the next call, the next eviction, the next front row seat to the painful, humiliating, public unraveling of a life.

Carver's next target is Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield), a young man who has appeared in court to protest his fate to no avail. Those notices to vacate that have been appearing on the family home where Dennis grew up and now lives with his young son Connor (Noah Lomax) and Dennis' mother (Laura Dern) become real when Carver shows up with sheriffs in tow, giving the Nashes two minutes to pack what they need before they vacate the premises. The rest of the Nash possessions are swiftly transferred to the front lawn for them to collect in the next 24 hours.

In "99 Homes", Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield) and his mother (Laura Dern) are evicted from the house they have long called home.

The time for courtesies, excuses, and second chances passed, the Nashes are uprooted. Dennis, a contracted home builder who has not been paid for his previous two weeks of work, tries to make things right, scrambling for job opportunities and pro bono legal representation. But for now, he, his mother, and his Magic-loving son are stuck living in a seedy motel alongside a number of rowdy folks who have similarly been evicted from their Orlando area homes.

Pursuing a missing toolbox he suspects was stolen by Carver's hasty movers, Dennis ends up with a cash-paying job shoveling feces out of a foreclosed home. His willingness to get dirty for a few hundred dollars makes an impression on Carver, a real estate agent who has switched over to the dark side of evictions to considerable personal gain. The money comes at a cost: Carver has to deal with irate people with nothing to lose. He carries a licensed, concealed pistol on his ankle and claims he hasn't enjoyed a meal out with his family without looking over his shoulder. Carver makes mortal enemies every working day and it's easy to loathe this sleazy man who has gotten rich off of others' misery. But if he wasn't performing these evictions, someone else would be.

It understandably is not easy for Dennis to go to work for the man who just coldly separated his family from their lifelong home. But he needs money and Carver has plenty of it to go around. Not all of their work is by the book. They tear out central air conditioning units and other appliances as a business tactic. They conduct fraudulent cash for key exchanges by having acquaintances pose as tenants of unoccupied homes. They swindle the insurance companies for big payouts. Even a tiny 6% commission on these dealings gives Dennis multi-thousand dollar checks and the ability to repurchase his foreclosed home from Carver. It is with a heavy heart and his family's interests in mind that Dennis carries out this work, keeping his new job secret from Mom and his son.

Michael Shannon picked up a slew of supporting actor award nominations for his turn as e-cigarette smoking realtor Rick Carver, who specializes in evictions and exploitation of the housing system.

Directed and co-written by American-Iranian indie filmmaker Ramin Bahrani, 99 Homes is raw, real, and edgy. It kind of plays like a modern-day Wall Street with house evictions being the new shady, lucrative stock trading. It is a timely drama, as the country continues to deal with the fallout of the housing market crash.
Foreclosures, evictions, and un/underemployment are topics that will hit close to home for some viewers and too close for those who value cinema for its escapist value. This is the opposite of escapism. Bahrani presents these realistic problems in an authentic and compelling fashion. The film wields the impact and understatement of a well-done documentary, a genre in which the director has dabbled.

Much of the film's success is the result of its two talented lead actors. Shannon has emerged as a frightening volcano. Moviegoers may know him from things like Man of Steel and Premium Rush, but his best work has been in smaller films like Take Shelter, for which he should have been more widely recognized. He is a believable and appalling Devil here, preying upon the ill-fortuned. Even Carver's hiring of Dennis is an unholy seduction, not a tossed bone of compassion but a seized opportunity for exploitation. The desperate Dennis has no better choice but to do Carver's dirty work and his work ethic is strong enough to support his electronic cigarette-smoking boss' brand of comfort.

Shannon's pitch-perfect villainy is practically expected, but the film's real revelation is Andrew Garfield as the protagonist. Garfield's arrival as sharp support in The Social Network was soon eclipsed by him landing the role of Spider-Man. The iconic superhero brings instant fame and fortune, but with great power comes great responsibility and Garfield bears perhaps the greatest weight for audiences' vocal displeasure of the reboot series scrapped after two outings were tepidly received domestically. Directors whose eyes were caught by Garfield's work in Social Network and Never Let Me Go could or would not really pursue the 32-year-old Brit with Spidey on his slate. But, in his first non-Spidey role since Eduardo Saverin, Garfield truly impresses. He conveys the conflict and stress of his character's predicament with the smallest of gestures, a convincing working class demeanor, and a flawless American accent.

When famous Hollywood actors attempt to sympathize with the impoverished, you always run the risk of artifice and condescension. Bahrani and his cast eliminate such concerns by just going about this story in an honest way, utilizing actors who aren't glamorous or adopting obvious airs. The film is cynical and at a few points it's a bit less than subtle and heavy on coincidence. But it's also important, poignant, and sincere.

Reaching limited theatrical release over a year after playing at Venice, Telluride, and Toronto, 99 Homes struck me as too small to garner any notice from major awards, especially after it struggled to find an audience, grossing just $1.4 million (selling roughly 160,000 tickets) from a theater count that got as high as 691. In fact, though, Shannon's supporting turn did manage to get nominations from the Golden Globes, Critics Choice, and Independent Spirit Awards (but not the Oscars). The recognition is appreciated because you'd be hard-pressed to find another 2015 release with two central performances as good and substantial as these.

This week, 99 Homes reached DVD and Blu-ray. The latter, reviewed here, is available for the time being exclusively at Best Buy.

99 Homes Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy exclusively at Best Buy Blu-ray Disc Details

2.40:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), 5.1 DTS (Spanish)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Video Extra Subtitled
Release Date: February 9, 2016 (Best Buy exclusive)
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
Retail Price: $16.99
Blue Keepcase
Also available on DVD ($26.99 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

99 Homes is only the second Blu-ray that Broad Green has released and it appears to be the last, for the time being. Nonetheless, the young studio has delivered a presentation every bit as worthy as the output of established major studios. The 2.40:1 transfer is sharp, immaculate, and consistently full of detail, which it should be once you see how much space has gone to the feature presentation (over 30 GB). The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack also impresses, with its crisp dialogue and agreeable atmosphere and score.

Rick Carver (Michael Shannon) explains strategic defaults to Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield) in this deleted scene, the only real video bonus feature to speak of on the "99 Homes" Blu-ray.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Broad Green doesn't seem to be a big believer in bonus features thus far, but 99 Homes gets an audio commentary by writer-director Ramin Bahrani.

As the film suggests, Bahrani is a thoughtful person, who shares much about both the real life issues dramatized that he discovered in his research and the filmic decisions made along the way while shooting in New Orleans (standing in for Orlando). Many interesting things are revealed from Bahrani's first encounter with Shannon to the actor who inspired the e-cigarette (Dennis Quaid).

Playing automatically after the commentary and having the option to viewed after the film ends otherwise is a deleted scene (1:26), a walk and talk that sees Carver explaining strategic defaults to Dennis. Introduced in the commentary near the end of the closing credits as one of only two deleted scenes (the other evidently didn't make the cut), it can be viewed with or without commentary by toggling the soundtrack.

"Also from Broad Green" lets you rewatch the disc-opening HD trailers -- for Terence Malick's Knight of Cups, Learning to Drive, A Walk in the Woods, I Smile Back -- as well as watch those for Song of Lahore, Break Point, Samba, Eden, and 10,000 KM. The only bummer is that 99 Homes' own trailer is not included here.

The menu, which lets you toggle navigation sounds, loops a montage and pulsing score excerpt.

No inserts or slipcover accompany the standard blue disc and keepcase, but the shrinkwrap does feature stickers touting Michael Shannon's award-worthy performance, the disc's Best Buy exclusivity, and the movie's Fresh certification on Rotten Tomatoes.

In "99 Homes", Dennis (Andrew Garfield) has no better choice than to work for Rick Carver (Michael Shannon), the slimeball who evicted his family.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

One of last year's most powerful and timely yet least-seen films, the well-acted and well-directed 99 Homes deserves a look. This Best Buy-exclusive Blu-ray is light on extras, but a solid commentary nicely complements a terrific feature presentation.

Buy 99 Homes on Blu-ray exclusively at Best Buy / Buy from Amazon.com: DVD / Instant Video

Related Reviews:
New to Disc: Crimson Peak • Meadowland • Truth • Grandma • Learning to Drive • Bridge of Spies • Our Brand Is Crisis
Andrew Garfield: The Amazing Spider-Man • The Amazing Spider-Man 2 • The Other Boleyn Girl
Michael Shannon: Take Shelter • My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done • Premium Rush • Man of Steel • Revolutionary Road
Beasts of the Southern Wild • The Big Short • Wall Street • The Company Men

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Reviewed February 12, 2016.



Text copyright 2016 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2015 Broad Green Pictures, Hyde Park Entertainment, Image Nation, Noruz Films, Treehouse Pictures, and 2016 Broad Green Home Entertainment.
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