Jack Judges: A dude with high standards lets us know what he thinks of random things. This time around it is Netflix Original Series, Ozark.
Ozark is the Netflix original series starring, produced by and occasionally directed by Jason Bateman (Arrested Development, The Gift). Ozark is a brooding meditation on choice and consequences, faith and fate and what it is to belong to something.
The series follows the Bird family, uprooted from their cushy Chicago life by Marty (Bateman) the family patron. Moving to the Missouri Lake of the Ozarks after a series of violent events brought on by Marty, the family soon comes to realise that that dangers lurk in the murky depths of the lake and in the forested hills surrounding this seemingly idyllic southern retreat.
There are some similar themes and plot points which may draw some comparisons to Breaking Bad, however these comparisons not significant enough that I was ever distracted by them and Ozark does enough differently to create an identity of its own. I would say the main difference is how Ozark chooses to focus on the Bird family dynamic and how they have to adjust to their new living situation. While Marty acts as our eyes into this dark world, his choices and the ramifications always affect his family to whom I felt compassion and a sort of intimacy. Each member of the family has their own take on their new life, all of which feel distinct and equally challenging.
The first episode of Ozark delivers some shocking twists and turns which immediately hooked me like a fish hook through my bottom lip. I felt a constant sense of unease and dread through the ten episodes of Ozark. The ominous, droning score and the slow, deliberate pacing of the show had me holding my breath, waiting for the next brutal twist. The show is a slow burn for the most part, tending to focus on the characters and how the Bird family’s arrival to the Ozarks disrupt the natural order of things. Local businesses, petty crooks and even farmers take notice of the Birds high profile arrival.
The slow pace of the show is often met with explosions of grisly violence. A loved one ploughed down by a bus, a brutal interrogation, a shotgun blast to the face… Ozark has its fair share of gruesome moments. These splashes of ultra violence stand out against the menace and moody tones evoked from episode to episode. The foreshadowing of things to come presented in the shows opening only serves to heighten the tension in each episode. You know when you see an eyeball in a jar that something shocking is going to happen.
The performances in the show are great, everyone involved brings something to the table. The Ozarks is peppered with great, distinct characters with questionable morals as well as seemingly decent folk just trying to get by. There really are too many to mention in such a brief review. A favourite personal favourite of mine was Harris Yulin as Buddy Dieker the terminally ill, crotchety old fogie whom is all too familiar with the darkness the Ozarks seem to draw out of some people.
Jason Bateman shines as the crafty, silver-tongued and sometimes menacing Marty Bird. I think this may be one of his strongest performances to date. Another honourable mention is the striking Julia Garner as Ruth Langmore, a sly and opportunistic Ozark small time crook. I thought Garner delivered one of the most well rounded performances in the show, covering all ends of the emotional spectrum. She could be an actor to watch in the coming years.
Ultimately Ozark is another strong Netflix Original series and is a welcome addition to their growing library of quality shows. While not perfect it makes for a taut, immersive watch and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I can’t wait for season 2.
19 September 2017