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OZARK is Netflix’s answer to BREAKING BAD and it’s a winner…

Posted on July 24th, 2017
Posted on July 24th, 2017

by Coop Cooper

Once again, Netflix has proven its dominance with yet another outstanding original TV series called “Ozark” that will appeal to a wide audience and may pick up a few awards along the way.

Jason Bateman plays Marty Byrde, a genius financial advisor with a wife, Wendy (Laura Linney), two teen kids and a successful business. He also launders money for the largest drug cartel in Mexico. When someone in the operation is caught skimming money, cartel underboss Del (Esai Morales) shows up and begins to clean house. Minutes for certain death, Marty pitches Del an idea that could make the cartel significantly more money than before. The catch is, Marty and his family will have to immediately drop everything and move to the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri. Del grants Marty a temporary reprieve and presents him with a near-impossible deadline to launder 8 million through local, small-town businesses. If Marty wants his family to survive, he must work fast to lie, cheat and steal his way to his goal while dealing with local cops, petty crooks, clueless partners, the Dixie Mafia and a vengeful FBI agent.

Fans of “Breaking Bad”, “Better Call Saul” and “The Sopranos” will have no trouble getting invested in this 10-episode series which starts off at a harrowing pace and rarely lets up to give the characters any room to breathe.“Breaking Bad” had a measured, deliberate pace, yet “Ozark” starts off at full speed and (almost) never slows down. The damage that Marty and his family have to do in order to stay alive is monstrous but understandable and compelling.

The show isn’t without its problems. Characters speak about illegal business openly on cell phones, in public places and in homes that could easily be bugged. Others make annoyingly stupid decisions that put themselves and their families at risk. Others fail to get meaningful story arcs that are set up and yet have no pay off. And some – like Laura Linney’s Wendy – are simply too unlikable. Fortunately, through a lot of clunkiness and difficult plotting, a story shines through that makes you anxious to see what happens next. I like to call these “Just one more episode before bed” shows that you can’t seem to stop watching even though you know you need to get up early in the morning.

Jason Bateman has yet to win an Emmy but this show may be his ticket. He is also the producer and director of many of the episodes so that level of ownership should feel satisfying for him, especially when awards season comes around. I have never been a fan of Laura Linney and this show fails to endear me to her. Her acting comes in two speeds: stiff or melodramatic. I accept her in the role but I can’t help but think someone else could have been more interesting. Some of the biggest surprises come from the supporting characters, like Julia Garner as Ruth, a nineteen year-old girl from a trailer park who begins the season as a shrewd, wannabe criminal mastermind and becomes something else entirely by the end of the season. Her story arc was the most satisfying of the show but there are others who shine as well.

In order to keep this show going, the rest of the Byrde family besides Marty are going to have reveal some likable traits. The son has a disturbing fascination with death and weapons while the older daughter can’t control her teen angst or lack of respect for the situation which frequently puts their lives in jeopardy. Speaking of which, that is biggest difference between “Breaking Bad” and “Ozark”. Every member of the Byrde family knows why they have moved and what they are up against, which significantly raises the stakes in unexpected ways. There is a great scene later in the season where the entire family is wrapping up millions of dollars and hiding them in the walls of a house as causally as if they were sitting around playing a board game.

“Ozark” is poised to become yet another hit for Netflix, the company that now holds dominion over a large slice of Hollywood. With new original films and series coming out weekly, I wonder if there is anything to stop them from conquering Hollywood completely. If I’m right, it might be a bad time to invest in a movie theater chain.

All episodes of “Ozark” are now available to stream on Netflix.

Rating: 4 and ½ out of 5 stars

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