Whilst he may be best known for playing the frazzled Michael Bluth in Arrested Development, Jason Bateman has never played better than the drama required of him in Ozark.
Bateman also directs three episodes and is a co-executive producer of the new 10 part Netflix series.
Bateman plays Marty Byrde, a Chicago financial advisor and family man who has been quietly laundering money for a Mexican drug kingpin with his business partner, Bruce (Josh Randall).
Money is at the centre of Marty’s life. While wife Wendy (Laura Linney) spends her day at CostCo and his two teenagers are enjoying a nice education, Marty is the man who values that which he has acquired. He even begrudges stumping up for a $10 donation for a charitable cause.
“Money is everything if you don’t have it,” he says. “Money is the measure of a man’s choices.”
But his stage-managed lifestyle is sent into disarray when drug kingpin Camino Del Rio (Esai Morales) discovers Josh has been stealing money and soon there are gunshots before Marty’s eyes. He talks his way out of an assassination by offering to launder cash, millions of it, by moving the operation to the Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri.
There, he promises more shoreline than California, with people dealing in cash and none of Chicago’s law enforcement to be found. Uprooting his family won’t come easily, especially with a belligerent female teenager (Sofia Hublitz). But wife Wendy has secrets of her own I won’t divulge here…
There’s plenty going on in the opening instalment of this introspective thriller and most of it hangs off Bateman. Marty frequently has to think fast to hoodwink his way out of close shave situations whilst trying to maintain the family man demeanour. The fact that Marty and Wendy are both such flawed characters, yet still caring parents, is part of this show’s intrigue.
At times too ominous, the opening chapter is clearly an inciting incident to transport our family to the foreign surrounds of the Ozarks where, as the press kit and trailer suggests, a much denser spiral will envelop them. With its photogenic landscape (albeit with Atlanta doubling for the Ozarks), this should make for a great escapist binge.
Ozark, written by Bill Dubuque (The Accountant, The Judge, A Family Man) explores our obsession with money, how far we will go to attain, the lines we cross to keep it.
Just pray it never makes you do this.
Ozark begins Friday July 21 on Netflix.