99 HOMES – REVIEW: Spider-Man loses his home in Ramin Bahrani’s 99 Homes and finds out that life isn’t so Amazing.

Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield), an ordinary working stiff, lives with his son (Noah Lomax) and his mother (Laura Dern) in their small suburban home. Behind on the mortgage payments, the bank foreclose and the family are evicted from their home and left on the sidewalk. Rick Carver (a towering performance from the ever-watchable Michael Shannon), a property speculator, arrives on his doorstep with the local sheriffs to execute the eviction. The scene is played out in full, and the frustration, anger, humiliation and fear is tangible as an indifferent authority crushes people’s lives with the banality of a well-practiced routine. Without work and holed up in a motel, Nash goes looking for Carver’s crew to reclaim some stolen tools, but Carver offers him a job instead. Nash finds himself in a devil’s dilemma: can he get his own house back by helping Carver kick other people out of theirs?

Bahrani has a record of filming original stories rooted in a criminally ignored social reality. The Zac Efron melodrama At Any Price used the plight of farmers being bullied by huge agro-business as its backdrop. Here however the blend of drama and context is seamless and the acting is exceptional. Shannon with his e-cigarette glowing is Mephistopheles with a mobile phone and Garfield gives a mature and unsentimental performance as a honest young man who is sorely tempted to put aside human empathy in order to achieve his goal. Bahrani is skillful in keeping everything in balance and provides us with the kind of angry and much needed drama about the human cost behind the headlines of economic meltdown.

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AT ANY PRICE: REVIEW – At Any Price might as well have been called Something Something Something. And yet despite titular blandness, the Zac Efron drama is an unusual but old fashioned melodrama.

The Efron continues his flight from High School Musical playing Dean Whipple, the young race car driver son of Henry Whipple (Dennis Quaid), a seeds salesman and farmer and hail fellow well met Lothario with a bad back.
Whipple is in the midst of a crisis, as the agri-corporation company he works for bears down on him for some dodgy deal he’s pulled and his extramarital seed distribution also looks to threaten his family. Ramin Bahrani’s film weirdly ditches its car racing sub plot halfway through – which looked to be giving the film its manly dynamism – to concentrate more on Quaid’s woes and their failing relationship. It makes the film as broken backed as poor Henry, but that’s better than it descending into the usual formulaic story of fast cars and success as an escape route. This gritty little drama is light years away from the justly pissed on The Paperboy (Click HERE for that review), and though it isn’t going to set off a lot of fireworks, there’s some quality and thoughtfulness here well worthy of attention.