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99 HOMES

99 Homes vs. 1 Realtor
For director Ramin Bahrani and the film's two stars, Michael Shannon and Andrew Garfield, 99 HOMES is a breakout film, as urgent as it is suspenseful.

The film takes audiences on a mesmerizing trip as it traces the rise and fall of a greed-fueled realtor and his victim-turned-protege. What begins as a shocking forced eviction of a Floridian family soon turns into a money-churning partnership, but one in which a clash of personalities, and between right and wrong, keeps amplifying the stakes at every turn.

The year is 2010 and the place is Florida, which leads the nation in foreclosures. In the last decade, housing prices magically doubled then tripled, as loan money and risky mortgages flowed fast and furious. But now, as crisis rocks the nation, whole subdivisions are going belly up. While many struggle to survive, Rick Carver smells opportunity. At the behest of big banks and the government's Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, he becomes the go-to guy who can flip foreclosed homes at lightning speed, by any means necessary. He's in the so-called "Cash For Keys" business, which compels tenants out of their homes or turns to threats and weaponry if they refuse. It's a job for those willing to see what they can get away with -- but even among his peers, Carver crushes the competition.

Carver collides with Dennis Nash when he, in typical pitiless fashion, throws Nash and his family out of their home. Their first encounter is incendiary. Carver couldn't care any less about Nash's roiling emotions ... or that he's a single father who would do anything to keep his family afloat. And yet, Carver is impressed by something in Nash, by his tenacity, his fierce pride, his willingness to go to the line. After seeing the full force of Nash's work ethic, Carver makes him his newest recruit.

Nash quickly learns the shady, dangerous ways of Carver's methods -- how to face off with angry, frantic people while maxing your personal profit -- but Nash is not quite like Carver. Carver fervently believes in what he is doing. A master of self-made proverbs, he believes that "America doesn't bail out the losers; America was built by bailing out winners." Nash, on the other hand, just wants a home, his home, even if it means risking his life - until he begins to see the price is his soul.

Nash's seduction by Carver, and the awakening of his own moral power, fascinated Ramin Bahrani. "It's a deal with the devil story," says the director and co-writer. "It's a Faustian bargain where Andrew Garfield's character has to work for the very man who evicted him in order to get his home back. He learns how to run scams on the banks and the government, which is satisfying. Then he learns how to evict people just like himself, which is unsettling. But once he starts crossing the legal lines, he has to wonder if it's still about protecting his family and regaining his home, or if it's becoming about cultivating a darker part of himself, seeing what he can get away with. He has a lot of reasons to be angry but he has to ask himself: how far is too far in this situation?"

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