Kate Beckinsale has had a rather varied career in which she has amassed a rather eclectic body of work. Many of her film choices have had to do with her being a single mother and time away from her daughter. She has also mentioned in an interview that several films that a couple of times in her career she has read a script and loved it then realized during filming that when it came time to film it the script has changed a lot. That was potentially a reference to The Trials of Cate McCall. You can just barely eke out that this could have been a solid film. If done differently. Potential – check. Execution – nope.
Due to her heavy drinking lawyer Cate McCall’s (Kate Beckinsale – Underworld, The Aviator) life is in the toilet. Her marriage has broken up, she has lost custody of her daughter (Ava Kolker – from television’s Girl Meets World) and is on probation from the D.A.’s office. In order to get to custody of her daughter back or even see her, Cate is working again after having gone through rehab. With the help of her sponsor Bridges (Nick Nolte – Warrior, Thin Red Line) she has taken on a case which seems like it will be her first loss in the courtroom.
A pro bono case is given to Cate involving a murder of a young woman. The woman convicted of the murder claims to be innocent. Lacey (Anna Schafer – The Whistleblower) meets with Cate and tells her that she did not commit the murder, but that it was her boyfriend at the time, Rusty (Brendan Sexton III – Boys Don’t Cry, Black Hawk Down).
Once she begins an investigation, Cate uncovers lies, cover-up and police misconduct, especially by the lead detective, Welch (Mark Pellegrino – The Big Lebowski, Mulholland Dr.). She is convinced of her client’s innocence and puts on such a strong case that she gets Lacey released by Justice Sumpter (James Cromwell – The Green Mile, L.A. Confidential). Shortly afterwards Cate begins to realize that things are not so cut and dry.
The end result of the film is that he totally has that Movie of the Week feel about it. It tries to check all the boxes of things that draws in an audience. Attractive female lead, lead character going through a tough time, alcoholism, police corruption, twists, courtroom drama, and the search for redemption. Sounds good, no? That answer is no. No, because it gives you no backstory for the lead nor any real insight into her motivations. Then things are begun and not really finished. Like was the car accident Cate is involved in really an attempt on her life or not? It is just dropped. Almost as if director Karen Moncrieff (The Dead Girl) ran out of time or budget to flesh things out. Gives the film a glossed over and rushed feel.
Kate Beckinsale does what she can. This is not an acting fail. Cries a lot, looks awful (as awful as Kate Beckinsale can) during the drunk or hungover scenes and delivers her lines in a believable way. The problem lies with the rushed feeling as well as the clicheness of it all. Perfect fodder for the Lifetime network, which is where it was presented to the public in the U.S.