It’s right up there with Breaking Bad, writes ANDREW JOHNSTONE of his latest binge-watch favourite, Ozark.
Capsule Review: Mild mannered financial expert launders drug money through his Chicago investment company. It all turns to shite and the next thing you know Marty is running a strip-club in the Ozark Mountains. This show is going to forever change the way the world imagines Missouri.
Ozark. It’s a word that brings to mind 1970s AM radio staple, ‘Jackie Blue’, an international smash hit for the Ozark Mountain Daredevils. I liked the song well enough, but was mostly taken with band’s name, later purchasing their 1975 Car Over The Lake album because I liked the neo-surrealist cover art, which featured, well… a car over a lake.
Since then, anything Ozark has been of interest to me, so of course I am going to watch a show called Ozark, or at least give it a fair go. Ten hours later I was still watching and hungry for more, but with the next day looming I had to stop and sleep.
Lead actor Jason Bateman (who also directed and executive produced) is a former child star later successfully remade as a comedy ‘straight man’, but in Ozark he is all straight man… well, sort of. Financial advisor/accountant Marty Byrde is odd. Odd and compelling, as Walter White is odd and compelling. A man of hidden depths, he drives an old Toyota, lives in suburbia and launders drug cartel money. He is frugal and careful, but his business partner Bruce is not, and Bruce has been bad. Very bad.
To add complexity to injury, Marty discovers that his wife Wendy has been doing it doggy style with a guy called Silverman. In a desperate moment, the otherwise self-contained Byrde lets it slip that he is getting used to betrayal. This is after daughter Charlotte takes her eyes off the cartel money she is supposed to be watching, and rednecks run off with some of it.
“I don’t ask much of you Charlotte! I don’t, I really don’t!” She has blown it and knows it. Otherwise she is precocious, and would try the patience of Noah himself. Wendy and Marty’s other child, a 13-year-old boy, just might be a psychopath. And there is more, so much more, but mostly it’s a fast running clock.
Marty has a gun to his head. The Cartel is pissed and he has to make it right, and fast. He is only alive because he has sold the Cartel the idea that Missouri is the next frontier in money laundering, hence a titty bar and more trouble than Marty imagined.
Missouri is a Southern State. “It is soooo hot and its not even summer yet and the pizza is awful and would you believe the only decent coffee is at Piggly Wiggly,” says Wendy Byrde (Laura Linney) into her dead lover’s voicemail. “I have no one else to talk to”. What happened to Silverman? That which almost happened to Wendy. Wendy betrayed Marty and the hapless Silverman paid the price. Yes, it gets messy fast. Wendy is not very sympathetic, but she is a well made and interesting; like Missouri it seems.
Creator Bill Dubuque (The Judge, The Accountant), is aided by composers Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans who nail the ‘less is more’ approach to scoring music, and co-director Bateman proves as competent behind the camera as he is in front of it.
Tight, taut and self-aware, fans of Damages, Breaking Bad, Boardwalk Empire, The Night Of, Narco, Goliath, and Banshee keep an eye out. This one’s for you.
As for the Ozark Mountain Daredevils? One founding member died in a plane crash, another in a house fire, proving themselves to be as accident-prone and combustible as fellow southern bands Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd. By the early 1980s the band, whose only other hit was 1973’s ‘If You Wanna Get To Heaven’, were without a label and faded into relative obscurity. Yet they limp along to this day.
* Ozark is a Netflix series.
* The Internet and ‘TV on Demand’ has revolutionised the way we watch TV shows. No longer beholden to television networks and their programming whims and scheduling, we can watch back-to-back episodes of new and old shows to our heart’s content without those annoying advertisements interrupting the narrative flow. TV viewing has suddenly become more accessible, democratic and a hell of a lot more fun. ANDREW JOHNSTONE scours the available channels and finds the best of the best, so you don’t have to.