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September 25, 2017

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A pact with the devil: bankruptcy and greed from Florida to Venice

VENICE -- It's suburban America, but it could be anywhere hit by the economic crisis: eviction drama "99 Homes" is a portrayal of bankruptcy, greed and despair as compelling as it is disturbing.

The movie, premiering at the Venice film festival and a strong contender for the Golden Lion, stars Andrew Garfield ("The Social Network" and "Amazing Spiderman") as Denis Nash, a father who falls behind on his mortgage payments.

Nash, who lives with his young son and mother, is desperate to save their home but gets evicted by pitiless real estate broker Rick Carver (Michael Shannon from "Revolutionary Road" and "Man of Steel"), and is forced to move into a rundown and dangerous motel.

It is the first in a series of emotionally wrenching scenes in which whole families — even the elderly — get turfed out of their homes without warning, with just two minutes to collect their belongings under threat of arrest for trespassing.

Unable to get work as a contractor, a humiliated Nash finds himself forced to decide whether or not to accept work from the reptilian Carver in a bid to recover his house, or take the moral high ground but see his family suffer.

'Dizzy with corruption'

Carver tries to reel Nash in by showing him how to rig and exploit the system to his own advantage, screwing the banks and stealing bailout money.

"America doesn't bail out losers. It's a nation that was built on bailing out winners," he says.

Director Ramin Bahrani told journalists in Venice it was "in many ways a 'deal with the devil' movie."

"It's a global subject, the corruption in the film has become systemic across the world ... (and) the perpetrators are hand in hand with the government," he added.

Bahrani, of "At Any Price" fame, said he researched the film in Florida, attending foreclosure courts, visiting motels housing middle class families and meeting "the richest and craziest hedge fund managers you can dream of."

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