The heroine of “I Care a Lot”, which is released in South Korean theaters on this Friday instead of being released on Netflix or Amazon Prime in several other countries including US, is a nasty piece of work. As an amoral con woman born to be a predator instead of a prey, she stops at nothing at all for getting what she wants and covets, and she is also smart and resourceful enough to get away with many criminal deeds she comes to commit in the name of win and survival. Yes, you will still not like her that much even at the very end of the movie, but, boy, isn’t it rather fun to see how far a clever and interesting criminal like her can possibly go?
Her name is Marla Grayson (Rosamund Pike), and her narration during the opening scene gives a brief summary on her cynical viewpoint on life and people in addition to the modus operandi of her dirty business. On the surface, Grayson is a dedicated and benevolent state-appointed guardian for many old people in the need of assisted living, but she has virtually siphoned off their money and assets behind her back, while those old people supposedly under her care remain helplessly stuck in assisted living facilities as they lose their money to her day by day. When she happens to be sued by the son of some old lady who is recently sent to an assisted living facility because of her, she firmly sticks to her false care and dedication at the court, and a judge presiding over the case has no problem in believing her impertinent lies.
Grayson usually gets her preys from a geriatric clinic doctor who has been paid enough for her unethical service to Grayson, and the doctor notifies to her on one day that there is a lucrative target she cannot possibly refuse. The target in question is an old rich lady named Jennifer Peterson (Dianne Wiest), and she looks like an ideal prey for Grayson and her accomplice/lover Fran (Eiza González) because, in addition to owning a considerable amount of money and assets, this old lady does not have any close living family member who may cause a legal trouble for Grayson later.
Once Grayson embarks on working on Peterson, Peterson’s life is suddenly turned upside down. Shortly after an emergency court hearing on her case, Peterson is swiftly sent to a nearby assisted facility center against her will, and Grayson instantly gets her hand on Peterson’s money and assets. To her surprise and delight, her latest target is actually quite richer than expected when she checks Peterson’s back account and private safe, and that surely puts more fire on her longtime relationship with Fran, who is probably the only person in the world Grayson actually cares about.
Of course, like many other things too good to be true, there is a catch. It subsequently turns out that Peterson is not what she seems to be on the surface, and there is a person who is not so pleased to find that she is suddenly gone from her house. That person in question is quite determined to get Peterson back, and he turns out to be a very dangerous match for Grayson. Once he comes to see that Grayson is not someone who is not so easy to negotiate with, he resorts to harsher measures for solving his pesky problem, and Grayson belatedly comes to realize how serious her situation really is.
While things get darker later in the story as expected, the screenplay by director/writer J Blakeson never loses its vicious sense of black humor as keeping things rolling along a number of delicious turns and twists. It goes without saying that both Grayson and her opponent are quite unlikable to say the least, but their tug-of-war unfolded along the story is gripping to watch as both of them are smart and engaging characters, and we become more interested what will eventually happen even though we do not care much about them.
Above all, the movie is anchored by another strong performance from Rosamund Pike, who surely enjoys playing an uncompromisingly nefarious character as she previously did in “Gone Girl” (2014). Without any need of excuse or explanation for her character’s sheer nastiness, Pike rapturously embraces her character’s strong personality and determination, and she also has a good chemistry with Eiza González, who is convincing during her several personal moments with Pike.
On the opposite, Peter Dinklage, who has always been interesting to watch since his breakthrough turn in “The Station Agent” (2003), has his own juicy fun as a ruthless opponent who turns out to be more reasonable and practical than expected, and he and Pike ably capture the rich irony of their last scene in the film. In case of the other notable main cast members of the film, Dianne Wiest brings some acerbic toughness to her seemingly functional role, and Chris Messina, Macon Blair, and Isiah Whitlock Jr. are also effective in their respective supporting parts.
On the whole, “I Care a Lot” is an entertaining crime comedy thriller film packed with some dark laughs and excitements, and Blackeson did a competent job of balancing the story and characters between humor and violence. Like John Dahl and Linda Fiorentino did in “The Last Seduction” (1994), he and Pike gives us a memorable female criminal heroine we cannot easily forget, and I must confess that I was disappointed a bit with the very last scene of the film, which feels rather perfunctory instead of eventual. At least, that is just a minor flaw in my humble opinion, so I recommend it with some naughty chuckles.