The Lake of the Ozarks was made by damming Missouri’s Osage river in 1931. It’s an enormous, sprawling reservoir and a popular resort appealing to 5 million holidaymakers per year. As the setting up for Ozark (Netflix), it also provides two purposes, as both scenic backdrop and expanded metaphor. It’s a majestic surroundings with an actual creepiness. Its grandeur is not involved, but it ain’t supposed to be there.
White-collar schlub Marty Byrd (Jason Bateman, also directing) is committed to Wendy (Laura Linney), who is having an affair. But that’s the least of his problems. Marty launders money for a medication cartel through his financial services firm. His business spouse Bruce is skimming off the gains and the head of the cartel has learned it. Bruce satisfies a violent end, and Marty is going to go the same way, before he helps you to save his skin with a program to launder money by using an unprecedented scale utilizing a beautiful but underexploited reference: a backwater vacation resort far from the attentions of the FBI.
Unfortunately, Marty hasn’t been there – everything he is aware, he learned from a leaflet. After relocating his faithless better half and their two kids to Missouri in a rush, he discovers that money-washing investment opportunities are hard to come by in the Ozarks, and the local unlawful fraternity wish him ill.
There’s lots of speechifying in Ozark – people have a discussion in full, well-wrought sentences – however the writing is up to the challenge. It’s darkly funny, unflinchingly however, not gratuitously violent, and it simmers with menace. You are improbable to leave long between episodes one and two. Bateman is fantastic as Marty, a quick-thinking, soft-speaking hustler knitting his life again collectively almost as fast as it’s unravelling, moving over between offense and home drudgery. He requests his kids to stand watch over their motel room while he’s out – there is $8m stashed under the bed – before adding: “And I’d wish to not have to carefully turn the room ugly to get the clicker.”
Ozark consistently overturns remarkable cliches (Marty and Wendy’s relationship is not immediately revitalised by their unlawful partnership, and the local redneck badasses turn out to be highly articulate) but it certainly is convincing. Linney is, as ever, magnificent. And the Lake of the Ozarks, where in fact the deep normal water is never far from shore, is a gift