Before it goes off the rails in the final stretch, 99 Homes is a riveting rabble-rouser that thinks it can make a difference. In these days when Hollywood typically dulls our wits, Ramin Bahrani's 99 Homes has a fire in its belly. It's spoiling to be heard.
Michael Shannon explodes onscreen as Rick Carver, a Florida real-estate vulture who makes his living evicting families from their homes. When Rick does just that to Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield), an unemployed construction worker and single dad with a preteen son (Noah Lomax) and a mother (a superb Laura Dern) in his care, Dennis wants revenge. At first. Later, he joins the bastard in capitalizing on poverty for easy profit. Maybe not so easy. Dennis still has a working conscience. But for how long?
In the script Bahrani wrote with Iranian partner Amir Naderi, the American dream has passed from nightmare to living hell. The vicious cycle can be seen on Dennis' tortured face. This is Garfield's best performance since The Social Network. The film asks, "Is there a bailout for moral bankruptcy?" It's not a pretty answer.