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Netflix’s Ozark

Within the pantheon of great debut seasons, there aren’t many that can compare to the new Netflix series, OZARK. Starring the incredible Jason Bateman as a money launderer who will go to any lengths necessary in order to keep his family safe, the atmospheric production boasts an impeccable ensemble cast, dark humor, and a number of unexpected thrills to produce an antihero for the ages.

Marty Byrd (Bateman) is a family man with an eye for numbers. He and his partner, Bruce (Josh Randall) run a successful consulting firm, but they certainly aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. Though the infidelity of his wife Wendy (Laura Linney) is a pressing concern, within minutes of the pilot episode, his domestic quandary takes a backseat to a much more dire situation. Without his knowledge, Bruce and one of their business associates had been skimming funds from their employer. This would be a no-no in virtually any circumstance, but when you’re dealing with the cartel, it becomes infinitely less advisable. Before Marty can even comprehend what is happening, his boss, the ruthless Del (Esai Morales), murders everyone involved with the deception. With a gun pointed to his face, and the promise of a long nap in a vat of acid, Marty assures Del that he has a business opportunity in Ozark, Missouri. He swears that he can clean $500 million in 5 years. Marty’s lofty proclamation is met with skepticism, but the crime lord reluctantly agrees to let him try.

Once Marty and his family arrive in Ozark, he soon discovers that cleaning the money will not be nearly as easy as he expected. While business opportunities are plentiful, the inhabitants of the vacation town aren’t easily persuaded. They don’t like outsiders, and they aren’t nearly as dumb as their outward appearances and actions suggest. While Marty doesn’t realize that a tortured FBI agent Roy Petty (Jason Butler Harner) has set up shop in the local motel, he also fails to grasp how intensely people like Ruth Langmore (Julia Garner) and Jacob Snell (the excellent Peter Mullan) are driven by unrelenting greed.

OZARK Starring the incredible Jason Bateman is an atmospheric production boasting an impeccable ensemble cast, dark humor, and a number of unexpected thrills to produce an antihero for the ages.

There have been fans and critics alike who have made the knee-jerk comparison of OZARK to BREAKING BAD, and there certainly are similarities between the two. The tone of the Netflix production, like BREAKING BAD, is fueled by brisk and constant intensity peppered with savagely dark humor. It features a likable lead who, as awful and unforgivable as his actions may be, is doing so in the name of his family. He is a protagonist that would be detested in the real world, yet within the confines of his fictional universe, the audience extends a certain feeling of empathy even though we know we shouldn’t. In addition, like BAD, the performances by the supporting cast are superb. Linney, who shines in every production she is a part of, is just as deceitful as her husband, yet much stronger than Skyler White ever was. Teens Sofia Hubliitz and Skylar Gaertner allow their characters to become central figures in the drama, as opposed to letting their existence be little more than place holder’s for the larger story. Garner, plays Ruth as a strong-willed, intelligent, and ruthless young woman with a heart full of fury and a penchant for violence. She builds upon her strong supporting performance in THE AMERICANS and crafts a cunning character who becomes an essential entity in virtually every storyline. And, while each performance listed is spectacular, it is Bateman who carries the brunt of the expectations and promise that OZARK has to offer. Part smooth talking charmer, part unscrupulous businessman, he is a flawed man with more demons than he knows what to do with. Bateman balances this juggling act with excellent precision, exhibiting a range that wasn’t surprising, but entirely welcome.

Boasting stunning production design, quality writing, expert performances, and outstanding direction there is every reason to believe that Neflix has an instant classic on its hands. 

What separates Marty from his de-facto doppelganger Walter White, is the fact that he does not hide his nefarious activities from his family. Wendy knows what he is up to from the very beginning, and before long, the kids do as well. Their criminal enterprise is a family affair, which alleviates much of the mystery that Walt had to keep at bay. I loved this fact about OZARK, and helped it craft its own interesting niche. As audiences, because of series such as THE SHIELD, THE SOPRANOS, BREAKING BAD, and THE AMERICANS, we have grown to love flawed, questionable anti-heroes who don’t even bother toeing the line of good and evil. What these series, and now OZARK, find a way to do, is make you feel like you are experiencing these feelings for the very first time. More importantly, they provide thrills, illicit gasps and make you laugh. They force you to question your own moral fortitude, and the lengths in which you would go to protect those that you love. OZARK succeeds in these departments in every single episode, and in virtually every scene. Boasting stunning production design, quality writing, expert performances, and outstanding direction (Bateman himself was at the helm of 4 of the 10 episodes) there is every reason to believe that Neflix has an instant classic on its hands.

OZARK- A

Brian Miller
Film Critic
Based out of Central New York, Brian Miller is a film critic who works in television, radio, and print. Providing passionate and energetic takes on every movie he sees, he looks for the best in a movie, not the worst.