Sep 27, 2017
by Diane McCurdy, Film and Book Reviews
Ozark the new 10 part series available on Netflix could be entitled “Breaking Sort of Bad”. It is not as well-constructed as “Breaking Bad” but for those who are missing Walter White, there are some striking similarities. Marty Byrde, Jason Bateman, is a middle-aged white man, a financial advisor and from all outward appearances he is the epitome of the American Dream. He has a beautiful blond wife, two children and is apparently very successful. However, some of that success is due to the fact that he is laundering money for a Mexican drug cartel. Walter White's situation takes on a more mythological dimension considering that he is dealt a lethal blow by fate. Marty Byrde's predicament is more of his own doing hence more mundane. The setup necessitates the move of the very urban Byrde family to Ozark Lake in rural Missouri.
Marty's partners have been murdered by the cartel for skimming. In order to avoid the same bad luck, he fast-talks his way into a scheme to launder great bundles of cash in a virgin market. He invests in a strip club, a lakeside resort and an evangelical church. The conceit of the red-necked hillbillies pitted against the city slickers is way too stereotypical. The Langmore clan seems straight out of Deliverance but in some ways they are more sophisticated in criminal intent than Marty. There is a subplot of a gay FBI man who is stalking the family which adds to the general unease.
The tone is very noir, very dark. Laura Linney plays Marty's wife, Wendy. Their relationship is volatile and their teen-age daughter is full of angst. The most adjusted character is their son, Jonah, and his past time is disemboweling dead animals. Bateman is an executive producer of the series and has also directed several episodes. I have found his delivery odd in this and in other performances. His cadence sort of starts out normally and ends in a mumble. I can't imagine him displaying high intensity emotion as, for example, Al Pacino. The cinematography is muted and it seems as if sometimes we are perceiving the action through a gauze.
Oftentimes brutal and grotesque, the series is not without sparks of black humor. Supporting characters are colorful and adept. Linney is always good. There is enough going on in Ozark to keep you going back for all 10-hour-long segments.
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