Valerie Bertinelli is Molly Kilcoin, a New York rookie District Attorney, who is brought in to the Rackets Bureau because she went to high school with mob errand boy Joey Mastanelli (Peter Dobson) who has been given immunity to testify against crime boss Fat Tommy Carducci (Joe Viterelli). Molly uncovers a connection with police officers that has saved Carducci from previous convictions, and sets about to reveal who has been "on the pad" ie taking bribes.
Bertinelli's Molly is meant to be unattractive enough to have been ignored by Joey at school, wearing spectacles and her hair in a bushy style. Her isolation is also represented by her having a cat. Molly's unattractiveness is also commented on by other police officers who say she looks `tired' and `like hell' because she works long hours. When she is injured in a bomb blast, her bloodied face resembles Linda Blair in William Friedkin's 1973 The Exorcist, which Joey acknowledges by forming a cross with his fingers when he sees her. However, she is shown in slow motion approaching Joey, and looks beautiful in close-up in the last shot of the movie.
The teleplay by Andy Tennant, with a story by Timothy Stack, has a laughline in `They swear it was suicide but how does a guy shoot himself in the head 5 times?', and the title `Shades of Gray' is explained by Molly's mother Lorraine (Micole Mercurio) after she slaps her with `Don't pull that lawyer crap with me'. Director Kevin James Dobson uses tri cross-cutting between Molly jogging, a shooter and Joey, and the closing shot is the only time he gives Bertinelli star treatment.