xXx: Return of Xander Cage
The last forty minutes of the movie do come together in a pretty diverting way.
Ramin Bahrani makes films about the American Dream as seen through the eyes of those on the margins of the increasingly unrealistic "mainstream" life: immigrants, children, transplants, or those too damaged to participate anymore (like the grizzled old dude played by Red West in "Goodbye Solo"). For the most part, these people still believe in the American Dream. They hope, strive, plan. But the system has failed them. The system is broken, and never more broken than in Bahrani's latest film, "99 Homes," starring Michael Shannon, Andrew Garfield and Laura Dern.
"Don't get emotional about real estate," warns real estate broker Rick Carver (Shannon) throughout "99 Homes," as people are forcibly evicted after defaulting on bank payments. Carver's may be practical advice, considering the economic crash and the housing crisis, but it is also heartless. Real estate to Rick Carver means money and opportunity; real estate to everyone else means "home," and what is more emotional to human beings than the concept of "home"?
The film opens with a brutal eviction sequence, filmed in one take. Blood spatters the bathroom walls as the resident commits suicide, all as the sheriff's department swoops through the house, overseen by Rick Carver, a shark-eyed man in an ill-fitting blue suit, smoking a glowing-blue electric cigarette. The story shifts to Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield), a single dad living with his mother (Laura Dern) and his little boy Connor (Noah Lomax) in the family home. Mom works a hairdressing business out of the living room. Dennis works construction but jobs are hard to come by. Nobody's building anymore. Bills pile up. They are in danger of losing their home. Dennis goes to court to fight for more time, he tries to get a lawyer to work pro bono.
One day, the reckoning arrives. The sheriff's department shows up, led by Rick, to evict them. In a harrowing scene of mounting panic, Dennis and his mother protest as Rick drawls, both easily and with enormous aggression, "This isn't your house anymore, son." The fight that ensues is acted and filmed with almost unbearable immediacy (cinematographer Bobby Bukowski does superb work throughout). Given two minutes to vacate, the hyperventilating family pile up whatever possessions they can fit into the back of a pick-up truck, and head to a cheap motel, filled with people in the same situation. "We've been here two years now," says a woman.