(2015) Standing before the bench in foreclosure court in Orlando, Florida, Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield), who out of work has missed three payments on the mortgage to his family home, pleads with the judge that the bank "told me not to pay." The judge rules against Nash, informing him that he has 30 days to appeal. At home, he swears to his mother Lynn (Laura Dern) and nine-year-old son Connor (Noah Lomax): "I'm gonna figure it out."
The next day standing at the front door of the Nash residence, ruthless real-estate broker Rick Carver (Michael Shannon) and two Orange County sheriff's deputies appear to serve court orders of eviction, instructing Dennis and his mother to vacate the premises with a two-minute courtesy to collect their valuables. When they resist, the officers give them the option of leaving voluntarily or going to jail for trespassing on property now belonging to the bank.
Carver's crew removes the rest of their possessions from the house to the curbside, which items if not taken away within 24 hours will be confiscated. The Nashes move into a room in a motel where Lynn soon realizes is "half full of people like us." She recommends to her son that they go to Tampa where her brother Jimmy lives, but Dennis is determined to stay.
It's 2010 during the housing crisis in director Ramin Bahrani's drama, co-written with Amir Naderi. Dennis goes to the Richard Carver Realty office to accuse one of the crew of having stolen his tools. Rick breaks up the fight and offers Dennis, formerly in construction, work for $250 at cleaning up a house where the sewer backed up.
Speaking of the work Nash used to do, Carver says to his new hire: "They build homes. I own homes. When you work for me, you're mine." After performing another eviction with Dennis present, Carver advises: "Don't be soft. They all got a sob story. But the law's the law. That's the side you're on. You should be smart enough to know the outcome of this situation. Toughen up."
Further instruction: "mouth shut, eyes open." Fannie Mae or the banks pays Rick or his representative $3500 per cash-for-keys contract in which the resident agrees to vacate in 30 days, leaving the home broom-clean with payment of a specified amount of money to assist with moving. "Is this stealing?" Dennis asks. Is what happened to you fair, Carver poses a question to Dennis: "Stop lying to yourself…. What did you do wrong that your family lives in a motel?"
Nash thinks hard before agreeing to work for Carver: "I'm gonna do it. Whatever you want me to do, I'll do. But …," Dennis wants to get back into the family's home. "Don't get emotional about real estate," Carver warns: "They're boxes." Dennis and his Hispanic helper steal AC units and pool pumps from abandoned foreclosed houses for which Carver gets paid to replace the missing equipment.
After an incident with an armed homeowner, Dennis, who'd previously turning down Rick's suggestion that he carry a concealed weapon, requests a gun for protection. As he had planned all along, grooming Nash for the nasty business, Carver gives Dennis the onerous task of foreclosing, dragging people from their homes or walking them to the curb.
In seeing how Dennis reacts to the unpleasantness of the chore with repugnance, Carver points out that the banks, not he, handed out adjustable-rate mortgages; that people without means got into homes they couldn't afford; that the government lifted regulations - all of which created the chaos of the bursting housing bubble - so that "you" (Nash) and so many others "turned my life into evictions."
Carver adds: "America doesn't bail out the losers. America was built by bailing out winners. By rigging a nation of the winners, for the winners, by the winners." Nash informs a homeowner: "The house isn't yours anymore." A woman demands to know: "How do you live with yourself?" As long as he can, Dennis keeps secret from Lynn what he actually does to earn money.
As Rick and Dennis prepare to take advantage of a $20-million deal with Santa Fe Bank on 100 foreclosed homes - Carver says to Nash that while initially in their relationship he may have wanted to kill Rick, but now he's about to make a killing - Dennis expresses a sense of remorse: "Is it worth it?" Rick replies: "As opposed to what?"
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