Ozark (Netflix – 10 Episodes, 2017)
When I saw the first trailer for Ozark, my wife and I looked at each other in joyful glee. We immediately knew it was going to be a thing of greatness. Being fans of crime forays such as Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, and The Shield, it’s one of the most riveting series since Walter White went out in his blaze of glory. Jason Bateman and Laura Linney as a married couple with kids who are hiding from the Mexican cartel in the backwoods of Missouri? They had me at “banjo”.
Marty Byrde and his wife, Wendy, are keeping secrets from each other. Marty and his fellow financial adviser, Josh, are laundering money for the Mexican cartel, being promised riches in exchange for their illegal services. Wendy is having an affair and Marty has hired a P.I. to get the goods on her. Unbeknownst to her, he has a video of her sexual escapades that he watches obsessively and is trying to decide what to do about it.
As some things in life go, things take a dark turn. Del, the crime lord they answer to, appears suddenly one day, confronting Marty and Josh with news that he knows they’re skimming money from the cartel. Marty begs for his life while Josh takes a bullet to the head after admitting he was the one stealing from the mob.
But Marty is fast on his feet, great with numbers and has a plan. After spotting a vacation brochure for the Lake of the Ozarks and using his incredibly quick wits, he runs a plan by Del to turn that area of the country into the money laundering capital of the US.
And Then With Ozark, The Fun Begins.
The tension in Ozark starts from scene one. Jason Bateman, usually the sarcastic, funny “every man”, blew me away with this performance. He truly shows that he can carry a drama. Marty is a man on the edge, trusts no one and is just trying to keep his family alive. You can see the wheels in his head constantly turning and his eyes seem to be taking everything in, never missing a beat. Every turn he makes is a possible life-threatening decision and one mistake could be his and his family’s last. He truly is an amazing actor, playing a part I never pictured him doing, but loving that he did.
Laura Linney exudes sadness and you can feel it in your bones in every scene she’s in. Her Wendy is run down and seems to have the weight of the world on her shoulders. She’s unhappy in life and marriage. Linney is a fantastic actor that really sells that she is a woman who always wanted more, but never had the chance to prove herself. I’ve always liked her performances, but not always the movies she was a part of. She begins a broken woman, but slowly finds her footing and strength and learns to use it to her advantage.
The actors portraying the kids give it their all and you can actually believe they are real teenagers. They have their bratty moments, but are still scared shitless by the events unfolding around them.
The scenery is fantastic. The actual filming locations are split between Chicago, Missouri and Georgia, a gorgeous spectacle of country life. Ozark seems to be filmed through a dark filter, like the sun is never shining. It tends to mirror the darkness of the series, reflecting the feelings of the Byrde family and anyone who interacts with them.
Some of the ancillary characters tend to be a bit stereotypical for that part of the country, but I overlooked it. It’s a cornucopia of strange, weirdly wonderful characters that bring it all together and keeps the story flowing forward.
Speaking of the secondary characters, Julia Garner is a standout as the “matriarch” Ruth Langmore. A young teenage girl, she leads her ne’er-do-well family that has their fingers in all the seedy doings in the Lake of the Ozarks. Ruth is ruthless and cruel and takes shit from no one. It’s when she meets Marty that the cat-and-mouse game begins.
By the end of the first season, my wife and I were in love with this show. It is now one of our new favorites, providing the same tension I had while watching every episode of Breaking Bad. Watch closely and you’ll even notice some similarities between the two series. Ozark has some seriously jaw-dropping moments and will keep you guessing until the very end.
It’s time for you to visit Ozark. Maybe you’ll even get out alive.