Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Americons: So When Does Fannie Mae Get Its Movie?

Perhaps it is time to get over the whole home ownership fetish. We’re largely over it here in the City already. It isn’t like there is genuine property ownership in this country anyway. We just lease from the Federal government. If you disagree, stop paying your property taxes and tell me what happens. Buying a home is really just a device to manufacture equity. Just put some money in the bank instead. Unfortunately, nobody wants to do a boring responsible thing like that in Theo Avgerinos’s Americons (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Jason Kelley is an NFL bust scuffling to make ends meet as a bouncer when Devin Weiss logically recruits him for his go-go mortgage brokerage. After learning there is a “t” in mortgage, Kelley starts hawking adjustable rate “Option ARM” mortgages, because they seem like free money for everyone. His old college football teammate Theo Jones is the first deal he closes. The fact that Weiss falsified Jones’ income to get it done only moderately disturbs Kelley. Fortunately, there is so much partying go on, he hardly has time to worry, until the economy starts to crest.

Basically, Americons wants to be Wolf of Wall Street-lite, but more lectury. As a result, it delivers enough bikini-clad women and femme fatale realtors to cut a tempting trailer, but Kelley’s long painful guilt trips are far more representative. Nevertheless, the lads’ Glengarry Glen Ross tactics only go so far. At some point, people have to take responsibility for the papers they sign. Yes, real estate contracts are complicated. That is why nearly every transaction in New York requires at least two attorneys.

Regardless, Americons has its talking points, which Beau Martin Williams and Matt Funke’s screenplay drive home good and hard. For instance, Weiss cannot simply live high on other people’s money. He also has to rack up $300K in gambling debts, because betting on sports is just like the mortgage business. Oddly, it also seems to be pushing the envelope with its depiction of Weiss’s boss at what is passingly established to be the very real Countrywide Financial. On a practical level, it seems like a legally questionable decision to claim Kerry Stein, possibly an identifiable figure, was using strippers to blackmail colleagues.

As Kelley, Williams is a convincing meathead in over his noggin. Providing more entertainment value, Funke’s Weiss genuinely seems to enjoy acting as recklessly and rashly as humanly possible. Yet, perhaps the best work comes from Tim Griffin as voice-of-reason Todd Elliott, who commands viewer attention with his scoldy dressing-downs.

Americons bills itself as the Great American mortgage brokering film, but you really shouldn’t be getting your financial analysis from a movie (check out this Forbes piece and guest post at the Cranford Pundit for fuller background). It simply is not as deep as it thinks it is or as grabby as it ought to be. Not really recommended, Americons opens this Friday (1/23) in New York, at the AMC Empire.