The film open with Rick Carver (Michael Shannon) surveying a bloody bathroom and a dead man. We then find out that the dead man’s home had been foreclosed on, and Carver was the one who was evicting him. Carver doesn’t seem to be phased by the death, or the widow or kids on the front lawn.
Dennis Nash’s (Andrew Garfield) is working on a job building a house but the foreman suddenly tells them the job is shutting down. The money for the project has fallen through and no one is getting paid. Later we see that Dannis’ home is being foreclosed on. He goes to court but he gets no help there. A man named Rick Carter (Michael Shannon) comes to the house and tells him he has to get out of the house in ten minutes ; the bank owns it now.
Dennis finds himself with his mom and his son in a seedy motel. When he goes to get some of tools back from the people who did the foreclosure, he ends up doing a job for Carter. One job leads to another and soon Dennis finds himself in the foreclosure business.
Dennis seems to hate the work he is doing but he is desperate to get his mother and his son back in to the family home. Dennis later has to take part in a foreclosure on the father of one of his son’s friends, Frank Green.The bankers and Carter have rigged it so they illegally get the paperwork to foreclose Frank’s house, and Dennis knows this. Green cracks and is ready to shoot it out with the police, but Dennis intervenes and tells the police about the illegalities his company took part in.
Dennis gets put in the police car, but green’s son comes up to it and smiles at him.
The movie makes a very strong statement about the bankers, politicians and wheeler dealers who caused the housing crisis, and then profited from it. The only losers were the people whose homes went under. Dreams dashed, people on the street, but the Rick Carter’s of the world only cared about making more money for themselves.
In De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves, Antonio Ricci loses a job because someone steals a bike from him. Like Dennis, who also lost a job through no fault of his own, Antonio’s family is now in great distress. In their desperation Dennis ends up joining up with the people he despises and Antonio steals a bike. Both have taken on the roles of those who helped to ruin their lives.
In his earlier movies we saw Bahrani’s love for the neo-realist style, and here we see the neo-realist themes continued, commenting on society by looking at the life of one family.
A really good and very powerful and truthful movie.
“This is a brave, layered film that challenges the wisdom of victory at any price. Both of its central characters would slip easily into conventional plot formulas, but Bahrani looks deeply into their souls and finds so much more. He finds a father and a son who are both challenged to question the assumptions on which they have based their lives. Yet this is not a “message picture,” its theme is never spelled out, and it communicates by the most effective means, life experience. It evokes elements of “The Grapes of Wrath” and “Death of a Salesman,” and how it moves from one to the other is subtly persuasive.”
He goes on to say:
“None of Bahrani’s films are simple. They inspire reflection. When this film played at the Venice Film Festival, one British critic complained that the Efron character’s racing career “ultimately peters out.” That suggests the critic understood exactly nothing about the movie. If it had ended with Dean Whipple winning a big race and becoming a NASCAR champion, that would have signified that “At Any Price” was just one more simple-minded formula picture. But this film doesn’t wrap things up in a tidy package. It is a great film about an American moral crisis.”