Jason Bateman and Julia Garner Steal the Show In Netflix’s Addictive New Series ‘Ozark’
If Netflix were on the search for their very own “Breaking Bad,” “Ozark” might be their closest answer. The drama series finds Jason Bateman as the ultimate anti-hero in 10 crowded yet wildly addictive episodes.
Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman), a father of two and husband to Wendy (Laura Linney), is tasked with relocating his family from Chicago to the Missouri Ozarks when his entanglement with the second largest Mexican drug cartel takes a turn for the worst. After the disappearance of nearly $8 million, Marty makes it his mission, as a promise to the cartel’s leader Del (Esai Morales), to launder money through various businesses in the small lake town they now call home – investing in a local strip club, restaurant and boat-run church.
As soon as the Byrde family uproots from the hustle and bustle of the Chicago chaos to the lazy Missouri Ozark region, more conflict arises as Marty soon realizes there is more trouble to face down in the not-so-quiet town.
Marty befriends Ruth (Julia Garner), a local crook who once stole from him, to help assist with a lot of his dirty work. But her sinister agenda soon creates a complicated and sticky path for Marty to weave through. Above all, Wendy’s struggles with marital infidelity only complicate the emotions surrounding the matter – constantly hovering like a dark cloud over Marty’s head.
A lot is going on in the intricate plot of the show, and the accelerated pacing doesn’t allow the conflict to go further than the surface, limiting the viewer’s time to digest the craziness. This could perhaps come across as the series’ biggest fault, but it is not enough to turn the viewer away. Additionally, a misplaced flashback episode explains how Marty first became involved with laundering money for the cartel, but it comes a tad bit too late.
Nearly as impressive as the story is the setting it calls home. The Ozark’s, as portrayed in the show, are dark and wet, filled with redneck stereotypes that become slightly cringe-worthy. The location is refreshing and nicely framed with the direction of each episode. Bateman confidently directs four episodes, including the finale, which emerges as one of the season’s best. The droning score compliments the unnerving tension and anxiety that runs consistently throughout the entire course of the season.
Bateman is one of the few actors in Hollywood who has the innate ability to pull off both dramatic and comedic performances. He has shined in commercial comedy hits, including “Horrible Bosses” and the cult series “Arrested Development,” as well as honed his dramatic chops in “The Gift” and “This Is Where I Leave You.” Never before has the 48-year-old actor had the opportunity to present his serious side in such a long form. The structure of the 10-episode Netflix series allows Bateman the opportunity to show off a level of depth that the audience has never gotten to see before. For Bateman, an actor who has bestowed longevity with proper merit throughout his career, his turn in “Ozark” is one of his sharpest dramatic and complicated performances to date.
As for the other cast members, Laura Linney does an excellent job as a disgruntled housewife thrown into a spiraling situation desperate to achieve more, but it is Julia Garner, as the conniving thief Ruth, who steals nearly every scene (pun intended).
On the spectrum of Netflix shows, “Ozark” falls more so towards the higher end of content, not quite hitting any high water mark as set by “Stranger Things” or “House of Cards,” but significantly surpassing the recently underwhelming series, “Gypsy” starring Naomi Watts. However, contrary to the latter, by the end of the “Ozark” 10-episode run, the viewer will be clamoring for more.
“Ozark” premieres on Netflix July 21.