I would forgive people about a year ago that got sick of hearing the sentence “Netflix’s awesome new series”. As more and more shows have been added and seasons get renewed, Netflix hasn’t only become more appetizing to our wallets, but an addiction we cannot go without. And just when you think you’ve seen it all, a new show sneaks up and out of the blue. The latest show to achieve that is Ozark, which hits the streaming service today.
This new dark and thrilling drama series revolves around an upper-class family of four who, in a nutshell, get severely knee deep in some serious shit. The family includes the stern and loyal husband and father of two Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman) and the not-so-loyal and bored housewife Wendy (Laura Linney). Taking on her father’s straight face charm and attitude is the older sibling Charlotte (Sofia Hublitz) and young, clever son Jonah (Skylar Gaertner).
Marty is a Chicago financial advisor, although he has been quietly laundering money with his partner, Bruce (Josh Randall), for a drug kingpin named Camino Del Rio (Esai Morales), working for a cartel run by Omar Navarro. But when Del Rio discovers $8 million of his money has gone missing, Del Rio dispenses with Bruce and most of the witnesses. But before he is about to blow the completely unaware Marty’s brains out, he agrees to spare Marty after Marty’s quick thinking and problem-solving remembers a pamphlet of the Ozark’s in his pocket from an earlier conversation with the now deceased Bruce. Marty, on the spot, creates a plan to replace the missing money and convinces Del Rio that he can move the operation to The Ozarks and within five years net him 500 Million!
Marty quickly uproots his family without much explanation to the kids. Within a few days, he must have his house for sale and be on his way. His philandering wife Wendy tries to do the runner with her new lover but that doesn’t quite work out as planned and more people die before they finally make their way on the long drive to The Ozarks.
I do not want to give any more away, but from the pilot episode and its even heavier second episode, Ozark barely stops to breathe. When it does (Marty deciding whether to end it all by taking his own life) it is far from apologetic to its viewers. It is dark, brooding and gory. I went into this expecting a funnier, family orientated drama along the lines of the amazing Breaking Bad series; ultimately it is far from that reality, but that’s not a bad thing.
Marty is skillfully played by Jason Bateman, who pulls in his best role since the original Arrested Development series. Laura Linney, whose fine work was last seen in the film Sully, continues to show us that age does not define beauty in both her acting chops and her on screen presence, as a wife who is torn between being happy or trying to stay alive with her husband and children. Suffice it to say, she doesn’t get a choice in the matter.
Ozark has an extremely long list of fine pedigree writers and directors on board as well. The creators and writers Bill Dubuque and Mark Williams who recently collaborated on Ben Affleck’s hit film The Accountant show us they are far from a one hit wonder. They bring the smart resonance and intensity from that film’s writing and feel, almost as if it lives and breathed in the same universe… crossover anyone?
Jason Bateman directs the first two episodes in the series, and considering he’s also in front of the camera and not just behind it, I didn’t feel that any of it was forced and the skill to do both at once is an incredible feat to which not many can stand up to – Ben Affleck and Clint Eastwood being two others who come to mind. Not bad company. I also won’t go past saying I really enjoyed Bateman’s last directorial effort in Bad Words.
It doesn’t go without some flaws though. Some of the scenes, as beautiful as they are to look at, could take a few minutes to look at themselves and wonder “…why am I sitting on this for so long?”. Most of the characters we meet are ridiculously smart, even when they are stupid! For example, when a group of rednecks stumble upon Marty’s money that is accidentally left unguarded at a hotel, they take it upon themselves to steal it. Marty finds them and approaches them and gives them the ultimatum that they give the money back or suffer the fate of the Kingpin that owns it. The way in which they give up so easily, it just did not suit the characters they set out to be in the first place. They are stupid, they are thieves and they have made a career out of it! I just started to feel that if you make everyone too smart, there is no fun to be had.
It is a very, very small gripe to be had in an overall awesome new series.
I honestly cannot wait to see more and we will get more! If this show does not receive a season two, I am escaping to The Ozarks myself and wasting my own money!
Review Score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Ozark premieres on Netflix today, Friday 21st July 2017.