“The Trials of Cate McCall” takes you back to the days of courtroom dramas when cool female legal eagles were played by the likes of Glenn Close and Greta Scacchi, not to mention the original Legal Eagle herself, Debra Winger. Edgy and suggestive, the film throws mostly fast, straight balls that land with a big thwack in the catcher’s mitt, but in the last 30 minutes it closes the game with some unexpected curves.
Kate Beckinsale stars as once-successful criminal lawyer Cate McCall, who’s vying for joint custody of her young daughter, Augie (Ava Kolker). To brush off accusations of alcohol and work addiction, Cate aims for a high-profile courtroom victory, the splashier the better. So she takes on the case of the fragile-looking Lacey (Anna Anissimova), who is strongly implicated in a murder case.
Aided by her burly assistant Bridges (Nick Nolte), Cate goes all out to establish Lacey’s innocence and comes up against a bevy of grisly dudes in the process. Seems like a whole lot of men on both sides of the law are intent on damaging Cate and her client, but Cate rolls with the punches. It’s a woman-warrior story, and writer/director Karen Moncrieff has a roaring good time making a true heroine of Cate while the men come off like a bunch of lame, bullying sissies.