The devil-and-all to pay

This is my review of 99 Homes [DVD].

During the recent US subprime prime mortgage crisis, young single father Dennis Nash suffers a double blow: he loses his employment as a construction worker, and is evicted from his family home. The film captures vividly how disbelief and anger turn to shock and pain – the outrage of having one’s home invaded without warning, the inability to think clearly when given only a few minutes to seize “essential” possessions before being ordered to “step to the kerb” in full view of neighbours.

Understandably yet regrettably, Dennis is sucked into working for the aptly named Carver, the diabolic wheeler-dealer who is exploiting the situation and who spotted his potential in the process of evicting him. This seems the only way Dennis can earn enough to regain his home for his young son and mother, gradually selling his soul in the process at what seems likely to prove great cost. Inevitably, making a good living by such dubious means begins to drive a wedge between him and former colleagues, ultimately even his own mother. At first, Dennis rejects Carver’s offer of a gun for protection against those driven to violence, but the fact that he changes his mind, much to Carver’s knowing amusement, is a sign of his steady sinking into corruption.

The relationship between Nash and Carver is quite subtly developed. The older man forms a liking for his protégé, taking him into his confidence, even doing him a favour by his warped standards. Nash’s initial hatred and contempt are eroded somewhat by the logic of Carver’s cynical powers of persuasion. What good has working hard done? America is the land of winners, not losers.

My only criticism in an otherwise powerful and gripping morality tale is that for a non-American (and perhaps for Americans too!) the details of the US legal system and various scams to exploit it are hard to follow, particularly when delivered in a side-of- the-mouth drawl which in the opening scenes made me long for sub-titles. So, my 4 star rating is a little shaky.

⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 Stars

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