A series I watched last year and am currently enjoying is OZARK. A project of Jason Bateman, it’s pretty darned good. It stars Bateman as Marty Byrde, an accountant who got mixed up with a Mexican drug cartel and who was plunged into a seat-of-the-pants scheme so that he could save himself and his family from execution by that same cartel. Laura Linney co-stars as his wife. I generally have not liked her performances in the past, no matter the project. But someone realized that her often false and wooden portrayals would work perfectly as Marty Byrde’s wife, Wendy. And they were right–it does work. It’s the first time I’ve actually appreciated her acting.
|Bateman and Linney as the Byrdes.|
But the supporting cast is what stands out to me, even shining through a largely contrived plot that often pulls tricks out of its ass (such as a minor character having the key to dealing with the Kansas City mob). It’s hard to pick out which supporting cast member is turning in the finest job, and I find that I cannot play favorites on that point, so I won’t even try, and will instead just go down the list.
Julia Garner is an actress of whom I had never heard. She portrays a white trash youngster who is directionless until she falls into the web spun by Marty Byrde. Under his wing she discovers that she has scheming talents she didn’t realize. Uglied up beyond belief, there was something about her that I found beautiful, and when I finally saw photos of her without the horrible makeup, clothing, and hair–I have to admit that I was not surprised to discover that she is, indeed, quite beautiful. I don’t know where she learned to do her southern accent, but it is spot-on perfect. Stunning, actually. Because I figured her for a born southerner.
|Julia Garner as Ruth Langhorne. What a great performance!
Lisa Emery portrays Darlene Snell, a kind of monster and the co-owner of a heroin-producing outfit that she runs with her husband. Again, she comes off as a truly hideous person, both physically and (often) personally. And once more I was a bit surprised to find that underneath that bare, horrid character is another beautiful woman. She nails the creature so artfully that it has risen to the surface to hide her true self.
|Lisa Emery as Darlene Snell. Don’t worry, she looks at everyone that way. Whether she’s marked them for death, or not.
Jason Butler Harner plays the sadistic FBI agent Roy Petty who is completely and utterly obsessed with nailing Marty Byrde as the laundry man for the drug cartel profits. I had previously seen his work in two films–The Changeling (directed by Clint Eastwood), and Kill the Irishman. In the former he was, as here, an obsessed and irredeemable monster, and turned in an unappreciated job as that vile creature. His turn as agent Petty, is as a gay but totally psychotic bastard who can, and does, break all of the rules to catch his target. As in The Changeling wherein he played a pedophile serial killer, he is completely easy to hate.
|Jason Butler Harner as douchebag FBI agent Petty.
Peter Mullan is an actor I must have seen previously because I have watched some of the movies in which he appeared. But in none of these was he so prominent. In Ozark he is Jacob Snell, the head man in the heroin outfit that he operates from his land holding in the wilderness holdings on his property. A gruff, bearded, good old boy with a soul-killing gaze and the temperament to slaughter anyone who gets in his way, he is the voice and face of the wolf running point at the head of the pack.
|Peter Mullen as Jacob Snell
Pretty much all of the acting in this series is far beyond average. The scripts are excellent ,with the exceptions of reliance on fantastic chance from time to time. Still, it’s classic pulp fiction, so you have to expect that kind of thing. What I did not expect was a series to be so uniformly excellent. But I find that I’m often being surprised by such developments from cable and satellite offerings these days.
Oh, yeah. You can watch this on Netflix.