A seemingly innocuous family man struggling to pay his bills turns to a life of crime and, surprisingly, turns out to be pretty damn good at it.
Sound familiar? Probably because it’s the plot of hit American drama Breaking Bad, which aired around the world for five seasons, drew countless accolades and is widely regarded as the ‘best television show ever made’.
This surburban-dad-turned-crime-kingpin story is also at the centre of Netflix’s new drama Ozark, which became available for streaming late last month.
Despite its resemblance to Breaking Bad, Ozark should not be accused of lacking originality.
Violent and gritty but with a slick of black humour throughout, it follows Marty Byrde, a Chicago financial adviser laundering money for a Mexican drug cartel who must uproot his life when his business partner steals from their ruthless boss.
Desperate to make amends with the cartel and save him and his family’s lives, Marty moves his wife and kids to a quiet resort community in the Missuouri Ozarks, where he seeks new “business opportunities” to help him pay back the debt his partner left him with.
Soon enough, however, Marty runs into trouble with the local drug dealer, a crew of Deliverance-style redneck criminals and an FBI agent keen to put him behind bars.
The show was created by Bill Dubuque, the writer behind the 2016 Ben Affleck film The Accountant, and it stars Jason Bateman, who is possibly one of the most underrated actors working in Hollywood at the moment.
With roles on comedies like Arrested Development and horror films like The Gift under his belt, Bateman straddles the fine line between the mundane and the sinister with ease.
However, it’s rare to see him in full leading man mode and he’s enthralling – emotionally an open book yet at the same time strangely impenetrable, which is a particularly unsettling combination.
Laura Linney, meanwhile, is his fearsome female counterpart.
Like Breaking Bad in Albuquerque, Ozark is filmed in a less-than-desirable locale – something we’re likely to see more of given the relatively low costs of filming outside New York and Los Angeles.
The bleakness of the semi-abandoned Ozark holiday town that provides its setting is a perfect backdrop to the creepy, tension-building action.
The comparison to Breaking Bad is not a new one, and Bateman has spoken about it before – pointing out one major difference.
“I am not suffering from a debilitating illness, except maybe my character’s arrogance,” he joked on the Today show, referring to Breaking Bad‘s lead character Walter White, who is dying of lung cancer.
“But he’s having to do things that are just outside what is ethically acceptable in order to provide for his family.”