True Believer (1989) Poster

(1989)

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8/10
Just the way a thriller should be
tha_mongoose9 August 2009
Edward Dodd (James Woods) is a run-down lawyer who no longer shines the way he did 10 years ago. Back then he was writing history, saving the Black Panthers and stuff of the like. Now he protects drug pushers and street peddlers. Nevermind what excuses he finds for this gradual decay of affairs, for a skilled speaker and lawyer Dodd never ceases to be - this can be seen even as he defends crooks. Roger Baron (Robert Downey Jr) arrives to clerk for him and realizes the idea he had of Dodd no longer suits the reality of the man. Thus he proceeds to ask him to take a prisoner case.

This courtroom thriller has all that kind of movie should have; we see a well-crafted pace that keeps you tied to your seat, the kind of acting from James Woods that is hard to find nowadays, Robert Downey Jr also dons the recently-graduated idealistic law student to a tee. The film is reminiscent of a John Grisham novel. Margaret Colin as Kitty Greer is also great. In fact, every actor in this flick does a better-than-average role. Lacking in cheesiness, having the proper pace, the kind of twists that make it just a little less than predictable, and good acting plus a nice mix of occasional black-and-white flashbacks with the present and an original score by Brad Fiedel (Terminator, Terminator: 2) that fits the pace perfectly make for a movie that is clearly lacking in recognition.

Highly recommended thriller, 8/10.
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8/10
One of Wood's best performances... seriously.
rondine4 March 2007
This is a very well done court room drama that is based on an actual case from actual liberal left wing attorney, J. Tony Serra. James Woods plays the fictionalized version of Serra, under the name Eddie Dodd. Robert Downey, Jr. plays Roger Baron, a young idealistic lawyer that comes to clerk for the once famous Dodd- with dreams of defending civil liberties and making a difference.

He arrives only to find the once rebellious and justice minded Dodd defending drug addicts and drug dealers. One evening a young Korean woman & lady come to his offices looking for help. Her son was sent to jail 8 years ago & is now accused of murder because of a prison fight that resulted in the death of a member of the Aryan army. Despite the fact it's not his area of "expertise," Roger convinces Dodd to take the case.

For Dodd, this case, this young man, Shu Kai Kim played very well by Yuji Okumoto, represents so much more than just another case. Dodd himself is looking to reclaim his own enthusiasm, freedom and hope. The District Attorney is played very reliably by Kurtwood Smith (poor guy- pre "70's show" he always seemed to play a bad guy.)

The main reason I like this movie are the actors. Yes, the story is somewhat predictable- but there are some turns that make you doubt who is innocent & who is guilty on first viewing. James Woods' performance in this movie is one of his most versatile and enjoyable. He transitions with ease from humorous sarcasm to an almost raw vulnerability. One of the best scenes is one in which he tells his client, "I know you're innocent- even if you've forgotten." After 8 years in prison, Shu isn't the same man he was when he went in. Just as Dodd tells Roger at the beginning of the movie that 10 years is a lot of time- in other words, despite his shinning past as a defender of civil liberties- he has also changed. Cynicism is something that creeps stealthily into everyone as age and time increase. In the movie "And Justice for All" they delve into the difficulty of being a defense lawyer & having to defend people you may know full well did a heinous crime of some sort. This has to change a person and that is part of what this movie is about.

All the other actors, including Margaret Colin as the PI Kitty Greer, are believable and supply good support for the main character of Dodd. This is basically Woods' show, and that's okay with me since I'm a big fan of his. He was also fabulous in "Salvador" but then I think he is fabulous. If you like Woods, you'll like this movie I think - if you like a good story, I think you'll like this movie.
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9/10
For The Greater Good?
bkoganbing27 November 2006
Warning: Spoilers
The title role in True Believer is played by Robert Downey, Jr., who is an eager young law school graduate looking forward to interning with famed civil rights attorney James Woods.

Woods who's a throwback to the hippie days of the Sixties is now making a living defending drug dealers and other various and assorted dregs of society. He's an attorney and bills have to be paid. By the way note that his office has his living quarters in it, a practice perfected back in the day by Roy Cohn.

Out of the blue comes a mother looking for an attorney for her son who killed an Aryan brother in prison. But she's also looking to re-open the case that got him there in the first place, a Chinese gang killing that he swears up and down he did not do.

Woods and Downey go to work and what they uncover is a frightening case of official corruption. It's an object lesson in how law enforcement can if it wants to, manufacture evidence to convict someone if they want them bad enough. In this case it's to cover up the real murderer, but I won't say more.

James Woods is just about perfect casting in the role of the aged and jaded defense attorney whose young assistant helps him recapture some of his youthful idealism. Robert Downey, Jr. aids and abets Woods every step of the way in this.

But the best three performances in the film by far are Miguel Fernandes as the corrupt and maniacal police snitch, Kurtwood Smith as the District Attorney of New York County and Yuji Okumoto as the imprisoned defendant.

Kurtwood Smith came to be known to millions as lovable, irascible Red Foreman in That Seventies Show. Here he's one hard-nosed District Attorney who sanctions all kinds of rule breaking for what he considers the greater good. He's far from TV's Adam Schiff or the real life Robert Morgenthau.

True Believer is a nice drama about some people who take on the system and win.
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8/10
Justice is Blind!!
gcats-114 January 2008
Edward Dodd played by James Woods is the disillusioned cynical criminal lawyer who has made a career fighting for ideals such as justice, freedom and equality for all. Fighting against the abuses of the legal system he though has realised that the only way he can protect the ideals he treasures so much is by representing uncouth drug dealers who do not appreciate what he does for them. All of sudden a young idealistic lawyer out of law school played by Robert Downey Jr, joins his firm in pursuit of the same ideals as Edward Dodd. The young lawyer, despite been an irritation to Dodd starts reminding him of the way he was when he started his law practise. One day in his disillusioned state a mother walks into Dodd's office asking him to defend her son who has been falsely accused and convicted of murder. The young lawyer convinces Dodd to take the case and suddenly Dodd's spirit is revived and there is meaning amongst all the hypocrisy once more. The two lawyers then embark on a perilous journey uncovering the truth behind corrupt police officers and state prosecutors who believe that the end justifies the means. Woods is brilliant with his emotional outbursts fighting for justice and fairness against a system which has let him down so many times. Downy portrays the young naive idealist to perfection. Lots of suspense and drama right to the court room climax guaranteed to keep you in suspense right to the end.
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Taut action supersedes continuity troubles
sartrejp19 May 2004
Eminently watchable drama from 1989 with Woods as burned-out lawyer Eddie Dodd, formerly idealistic & successful civil liberties attorney who's now a callous defender of drug dealers ("No, pot possession cases are free. Coke dealers pay cash: that subsidizes the pot possession cases." Character reputably based on real-life S.F. lawyer J. Tony Serra; hence the long hair), & Rbt. Downey, Jr., as his idealistic law clerk, fresh out of school. (Downey, Jr.'s, @first incredulous: "You were my age when you defended that case," to which Dodd retorts, "I was never your age.")

There're a few continuity problems here, mainly which fingers the charcoal is on after Dodd's tussle with Chuckie, but they're pretty much overshadowed by some great sub-plots (Manhattan D.A.'s [Kurtwood "70s Show" Smith] curious interest in an 8-year-old murder case, Dodd's faded romance with P.I. Margaret Colin, the sadly schizoid Vietnam vet ["Cecil, are you what heroes are made of?"]) & the main story line, the case of a convicted murderer. Dodd @first dismisses Downey, Jr.'s, suggestion that they take the case but later becomes so emotionally immersed in it that when Roger (Downey, Jr.) spins the futility here with "We all think it's a good fight," Eddie pounces on him with some memorable oratory: "Don't give that liberal, yuppie b***s**t about a good fight; this isn't f*****g Yale! A good fight is one you win!"

Directed by Joseph Ruben, with a nice, incidental orig. score by Brad Fidel & some slick ambient tunes (Doors's Crystal Ship, Lou Reed's Busload of Faith).
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One of the most powerful court dramas ever made.
Daria4229 May 2002
Okay. I'm a huge James Woods fan, so I may be a bit biased. But a lot of these reviews on this movie are pretty unfair - *especially* the one where the only comments made about the entire movie was a detailed description of the "nightmare" Woods' hairpiece inspired for the viewer. C'mon, that has nothing to do with anything. (I, personally, quite liked seeing Woods with long hair for a change - but that's not the point of this review, so I'm moving on.)

This movie's plot, about a disillusioned lawyer who has spent the latter half of his career getting drug dealers freed, and suddenly gets a chance at a case where he can really do something _good_ - namely, free an innocent man - is a story that packs a lot of power. And most of that power comes from Woods in his role as Eddie Dodd, the shambled attorney. Man, if Woods would ever find himself without work, he could always go back to school and go into law; raw passion, this guy has it. The court scenes are brilliant. Actually, all of the scenes are brilliant. You can't watch this movie without being amazed at the depths of emotion that this character is going through, all visible on his face, in his eyes, in his voice. The acting is superb. (A rarity with some more recent movies, in my opinion.) The character is superb. Woods turns him from a character into a real _person_, someone you can relate to, someone you can understand and sympathize with. Which is really what makes a movie great.

The acting is great, the story is gripping - the audience can try to stay one step ahead of the characters, but good luck! Everything unfolds at a good pace, without getting either too slow or too confusing. Robert Downey, Jr., is both amusing and poignant as a green attorney working for Dodds; and Yuji Okumoto, as Shu, has some really in-depth scenes against Dodds. All the characters are great.

It's got action, it's got power, it's got raw emotion, it's got _feeling_. The ending was poignant enough to make me cry. So, hey, if you like watching a film that will get your attention and maybe even make you re-think a few things about how America is handled, give this movie a try. Because, really, the hairpiece on Woods is actually quite attractive. ;-)
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Truly a Memorable Film.
jaspervanzyl21 April 2001
As a huge fan of Robert Downey, Jr. I anticipated this film for weeks when I heard it was on television. So, last Saturday night I turned on the TV and, I wasn't sorry.

James Woods is in a great performance as Edward Dunn, a hotshot attorney who hires Roger Baron (Robert Downey, Jr.) to clerk for him. Woods defends a Korean whom's mother believes that he's been wrongly accused. But all the facts points to the Korean (Yuji Okumodo)...

As I said, Woods is in a great performance, which unfortunately could have been much better had it not been for his wiggy hairdo. Downey is excellent, and you can actually feel his character's anticipation. You can also feel the coldness and bitterness of Okumodo's character. Kurtwood Smith is very interesting as Robert Reynard, and the rest of the cast are also in intruiging performances.

The film is at some points very hard to follow, but overall this film could well be one of the best crime dramas of the late 1980's.
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9/10
One more case of rotten NYPD cops and prosecutors
Dr_Coulardeau25 November 2008
Warning: Spoilers
One more film about the corruption that is killing the NYPD and the District Attorney in that area. Then it is all a question of details. Gritty details. When you are working on a big business like the Colombian connection, you need informers and of course these have a price and that price is simple, total and absolute protection and impunity in their everyday criminal life. In this very particular case there seemed to be some kind of family business that made the informer nervous and he had to kill some kind of boyfriend of his daughter or something and then cover up his crime by having the police arrest and have an other man accused, as long as he was not a Caucasian nor someone from his own band or gang and that's how a Korean was dragged into prison and stayed there eight years. But the film is nothing so far. The point is how the defense attorney is going to get the truth out and his client out of the can. He has to force a couple of people into saying what has to be said and then he can trap the district attorney into revealing that the Korean was just the price to pay for the information about the Colombian connection. A pay off. Then the film is finished and we can go home and rest on our beds with no fear. The most rotten police force and prosecuting branch of justice are watching over us and assessing who they are going to drag down into their nets to pay off some criminal for the little information he has provided them with about some cosmic scandal or surrealistic plot. That's when we regret not to be able to hitchhike our way out of this galaxy to go under another sun on another planet to sun our bones in peace and security. But that is certainly not in our beautiful cities. Enjoy the film, the stunts are great though the stunt-men are a little bit passive.

Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris Dauphine, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne & University Versailles Saint Quentin en Yvelines
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8/10
True Justice!
g-bodyl23 December 2014
The last decade of the twentieth century is known for the millions of courtroom dramas produced. At the turn of that decade, True Believer was released and countless numbers followed. For the film itself, it was actually pretty good though it seems no one has seen the film. It has all what you would expect in a courtroom drama and it was done fairly well. The film was tense and it has some stirring moments. However, the film needs editing work done as there are many continuity issues and it gives the overall story arch some unnecessary problems.

This film is about a lawyer named Eddie Dodd who used to be a civil rights lawyer and now he is a worn-down defender for drug users. With the help of a younger lawyer just out of grad school Roger Baron, Dodd decides to open an eight-year-old case involving an Asian guy who was wrongly convicted of a gang hit. Now Dodd must fight against wormy prosecutors, corrupt cops, and racial Nazis just to even stay alive.

Roger Ebert has the perfect quote for James Woods performance as he called him "hypnotically watchable." I happen to agree that Woods deliver an excellent performance as he does not hold anything back. Plus you have to give credit to his hairstyle making him look like a lawyer from the 1770's. On the other hand, I didn't quite buy Robert Downey Jr's performance. He is a fantastic actor, but his role here irritated me. He has some good moments, but not enough to prove his worth.

Overall, True Believer is a fine courtroom film that is energized by the fiery James Woods performance. If he was not here, this movie would have been mediocre at best. But the film itself is thrilling and there are even some chilling aspects to the film, almost horror-film like. But there are also some action scenes and chases that will keep normal filmgoers interested. I thought the actual court case was interesting and it shows how racist Americans can be, even twenty plus years after the Civil Rights Act. I rate this film 8/10.
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7/10
Solid, Well-Made Courtroom Thriller With First-Rate Script And Performances
ShootingShark21 August 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Eddie Dodd is a New York City lawyer with a noted history of sixties civil rights cases who has lapsed into defending drug-pushing hoodlums. He takes the case of Shu Kai Kim, a man wrongfully convicted for a streetgang killing eight years prior, and discovers that Kim was just the patsy in a big operation stretching all the way to the DA's office.

Even if you don't normally rate courtroom thrillers or cop movies, check this one out - it is handsomely made by a much underrated director, has a terrific script that keeps pulling off great twists and features a sensational show-stopping performance by Woods. Eddie Dodd is a fascinating character type almost unique in eighties movies; a pot-smoking old hippy who used to have a set of principles and is trying to pretend he still does. It's the only example I've ever found that picks at the hell-no-we-won't-go generation who turned into BMW-driving executives for life insurance companies, and Woods (complete with a poofy ponytail) revs it up for all it's worth, sleazy and well-intentioned at the same time. When the conservative whitebread DA accuses him of being a man who defends coke pushers for free, his response is, "Coke pushers pay cash, Mr Reynard. That subsidises the pot possession cases. They're free.". The rest of the cast are excellent, with lots of great players in the small roles (Hallahan, Bower, Guzman, Fuller) and Wesley Strick's great dialogue makes them jump off the screen with immediacy. Equally good is the piano and bass score by Brad Fiedel and there is some inspired use of classic sixties anthems, as well as a great end-credits song by Lou Reed (another sixties survivor) called Busload Of Faith. All this, combined with Ruben's assured direction and classy photography by John W. Lindley, add up to a legal thriller that is way above average; atmospheric, exciting, dramatic and it doesn't take itself too seriously. Don't miss it. The UK print of this movie I own has a dumb alternative title, Fighting Justice.
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7/10
Lively courtroom thriller
gridoon201923 July 2016
Warning: Spoilers
A slick, lively, pacey and sometimes even funny courtroom thriller, with an intense and commanding performance by James Woods in the leading role (he nearly wipes Robert Downey Jr. off the screen; only Kurtwood Smith matches his intensity). To be honest, it's not that much better than a very well-made episode of a TV series (and perhaps fittingly, it spawned one, albeit short-lived), and the plot has holes in it, but the screenwriter, Wesley Strick, and the director, Joseph Ruben, get a grip on the viewer right from the start and never let go. Vivid on-location New York filming; flavorful score by Brad Fiedel ("The Terminator"). *** out of 4.
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8/10
An Entertaining Legal Thriller
Aly2008 July 2016
Warning: Spoilers
A burned out former civil rights lawyer and his hero-worshiping clerk are attempting to free an innocent man, but the web is trickier than they expected. That is the basic plot of this lesser known legal drama starring James Woods and Robert Downey, Jr.

The performances by Woods and Downey, Jr. are the film's highlight. James Woods brings his trademark sarcasm and wit to the role of Eddie Dodd, the disillusioned lawyer who went from the best to a low-level defender of drug peddlers. When Downey, Jr.'s Roger Baron arrives on the scene and fanatically pushes Eddie to take the case of a Korean inmate who might've been wrongly convicted, Woods goes just barely over the top as he chews Downey out for his idolization of him. However Eddie Dodd realizes that what he sees in his new clerk is the same spirit Dodd himself once had and pursues the case. The chemistry between Woods and Downey, Jr. make for the best of the film's out of court scenes and for some heartfelt moments.

The plot of the film is relatively simple as it plays like a "race against time" to find out the true culprit. However the filmmakers make this cliché work to their advantage as the web of lies grow more elaborate until the final reveal of the true villain. The tension is paced well and doesn't try to move into a genre the film is not.
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10/10
Believe in the Cause
Sertor16 October 2000
True Believer is certainly a compelling film. James Woods turns in another fine performance as Eddie Dodd, a former civil rights lawyer now dealing mostly with drug cases.

Robert Downey, Jr. arrives on the scene to rekindle Eddie's flames for justice as he takes on the case of a young Korean man accused of a jailhouse murder. Eddie decides to retry the original murder that jailed the young man for which he claimed he was not guilty.
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Woods in a tailor-made perf; not unlike "The Verdict"
george.schmidt23 April 2003
TRUE BELIEVER (1989) *** James Woods, Robert Downey Jr., Margaret Colin. Woods excels as a hippie liberal defense attorney (patterned after the legendary NYC defender William Kunstler) who gets a chance at redemption in the case of an young Asian man accused of cold blooded murder that opens a can of worms including corruption and a life lesson in ideals and dignity.
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10/10
Excellent movie!
aubrechon22 July 2006
Absolutely one of the best movies I've ever seen. Woods has the uncanny ability to make you feel like your witnessing an event first hand versus some other actors strategies of mustering up some half-baked emotion to match the script. Watching Woods in this film is like watching someone who is being filmed while they're all alone but they don't realize that a camera is on them. The movie is extremely action packed and moves at lightning speed. Also rather complex. I had to watch it twice to really soak it all in but loved every minute of it. After watching this movie I understood and agreed with Bette Davis when she said that James Woods was the best actor in Hollywood. All the other actors did a great job. They seemed to feed off of Woods fanatical high energy and roll with the flow.
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10/10
Very Cool Movie
FSUKXAZ18 October 2002
Very cool movie. Excellent plot. Robert Downy Jr plays an excellent new attorney. James Woods is in top form as the experienced attorney. In fact, he is the movie and steals the show. Excellent court room drama, action, and comedy all rolled up in one movie. True Believer is definately worth owning.
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4/10
From a 2006 perspective, this movie has little to offer
Billy_Tallent18 August 2006
I imagine people seeing this movie when it was initially released in 1989 probably have a different perspective on it.

However, I can only review it from today's bias, since I only recently saw it. This may mean I am judging the movie, on its own merits, unfairly.

The fact is, I have seen this plot innumerable times on Law and Order and all those similar cop/lawyer shows. It's just not very interesting. We all know what is going to happen. There's no tension. Of course, ordinary plot can be compensated for by strong characters, but here the characters are also pretty one-dimensional. James Woods as Eddie Dodd over-acts, and I don't buy his character's sudden change from defending scuzzy drug-dealers for cash bonuses, to caring once again about the people he defends. There's just no reason given for it. I think we were supposed to get the idea that he sees his former self in the younger and idealistic Roger Baron (Downey), except we don't see any evidence of this transition, we only know this because it's a standard of any movie featuring the older jaded mentor and the young fresh tyro. Downey has very little to do, everything focuses on Dodd's journey. And Dodd is just not a compelling character.
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6/10
A Fair Entertainer, with a Winning Performance by James Woods!
namashi_127 September 2011
'True Believer' is A Fair Entertainer, with a Winning Performance by James Woods! Woods delivers one of his best performances in this 1989 Courtroom Drama, and he without a doubt, is the biggest merit of this film.

'True Believer' Synopsis: A cynical former civil liberties attorney now reduced to "specializing" in defending drug dealers becomes transformed by an eight-year-old murder case.

Wesley Strick's Screenplay is average in the first-hour, but is arresting & absorbing in the second-hour. I really liked the second-hour of the film, it really caught my attention. Joseph Ruben Directs this Courtroom Drama, nicely. Cinematography, Editing, Art Design & Costume Design, are satisfactory.

Performance-Wise: Woods, obviously, is the show-stealer. As mentioned, The Acting Legend delivers one of his best performances in here. He really rips it up in every scene. Robert Downey Jr. is good. Margaret Colin supports well. Yuji Okumoto is passable, while Kurtwood Smith is excellent. Others fill the bill.

On the whole, 'True Believer' is a decent film, with Woods ruling the show with a memorable performance.
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10/10
Found it, at last!
marybryan-111 January 2005
Finding this film after 13 or 14 years makes me a True Believer in Google!

Having forgotten both the names of this film, and the lead actor, I have remembered the character portrayals and plot lines for all this time, and have been scouring video stores and film catalogs for years, trying to recall some scrap of identifying info so I could rent it again, or even buy it.

On an usually quiet day today, I just happened to stop at a Blockbuster two doors from a public library. When I received the usual "Sorry, can't help you without a title," from the Blockbuster clerk, I came over to the library computer and Advance-Googled "courtroom drama Asian suspect" entering years between 1980 and 1990, and VOILA!!!!! Guess where I'm going when I log off . . . Anyone into the courtroom drama genre should enjoy this film tremendously. After 15 years, I'm finally going to see it again! YAYYYYY!
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This is one of the few rare intelligent films of the 80s
bertie330 August 1999
I saw this movie around 1990 and was surprised at how smart this movie was. Few movies from the 80s were so fascinating. James Woods is one of the best actors that came from the 80s. That is why I hate Tom Cruise films from the 80s and usually from the 90s.
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5/10
Truly Average
thesar-224 March 2019
I'm a sucker and lover of courtroom dramas, especially the fictional kind and I'm surprised I've never seen this 30-year-old film with a baby Iron Man and a crazy, pony-tailed James Woods. But, alas, it's fairly standard fare. Woods needs to be knocked back to his true believer status and does when Downey Jr. shows up and together, they'll defend a gorgeous client who may/may not have been accused of a crime he didn't commit. I guess I'd recommend, but if you never see it, you're life won't change.
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7/10
James Woods and his ponytail
SnoopyStyle7 January 2017
Shu Kai Kim has been in prison for a gang murder. He is attacked by a rival gang and ends up killing his attacker. Eddie Dodd (James Woods) is a cynical New York defense attorney. His better days as a civil rights lawyer are behind him and he uses his righteous rhetoric to work for drug dealers. Roger Baron (Robert Downey Jr.) is the new graduate eager to work for the legend but is dismayed by his present condition. Kim's mother comes to them with both his cases of self-defense in prison and a wrongful conviction 8 years ago. Kitty Greer (Margaret Colin) is Eddie's investigator. Robert Reynard (Kurtwood Smith) is the prosecutor.

James Woods has more than enough charisma to spare. He and his ponytail have all the screen presence in the world. The story isn't anything to write home about but the movie does have great actors doing good work. Robert Downey Jr. brings his boyish eagerness and Kurtwood Smith accentuates his entitled arrogance. I don't know if I buy Margaret Colin as a tough investigator. She's best at the mom roles. Overall, this is a standard court drama with great actors doing solid work.
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8/10
Tense and gripping legal thriller
Woodyanders23 September 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Idealistic law student Roger Baron (a solid and likable performance by Robert Downey Jr.) gets a job as an assistant to his hero Eddie Dodd (superbly played with wired intensity by James Woods), a former radical 60's hippie civil rights activist turned cynical and disillusioned hack who ekes out a living going to bat for scumbag drug offenders. Dodd regains his faith and passion for his profession after Baron persuades him to take on an eight-year-old case involving wrongfully convicted killer Shuu Kai Kim (an excellent portrayal by Yuji Okumoto).

Director Joseph Ruben keeps the riveting story moving along at a brisk pace, builds plenty of suspense, and makes fine use of gritty New York City locations. Wesley Strick's smart script tackles such weighty issues as redemption, abuse of authority, and deliberate miscarriages of justice done as a means to an end for serving the "greater good" in a bold head-on manner. The terrific supporting cast further ensures that this picture hums from start to finish: Margaret Colin as spunky private investigator Kitty Greer, Kurtwood Smith as hard-nosed district attorney Robert Reynard, Tom Bower as insane rattled witness Cecil Skell, Miguel Fernandes as tough and wormy ex-con Art Esparza, Charles Hallahan as sickly burn-out ex-cop Vincent Dennehy, Luis Guzman as fearsome felon Ortega, Misan Kim as the distraught Mrs. Kim, and Graham Beckel as the corrupt Detective Sklaroff. John Lindley's sharp cinematography provides an impressive polished look. Brad Friedel's dynamic jazzy score hits the stirring spot. Moreover, the electric presence of Woods and Dodd's deep-seated need to have a worthwhile cause in life give this film a tremendous amount of extra charge and resonance. An on the money winner.
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8/10
Woods & Downey
culwin21 February 2001
This was a good, but not great movie. If you like James Woods you will like this movie, if you don't you probably won't. Standard plot: Lawyers try to solve a murder and expose bad guys to save their client. How can you go wrong? Look for "Red" from "That 70's show". Downey & Woods would reunite 3 years later in "Chaplin". 7 1/2 out of 10
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7/10
Feed Your Head
rmax30482310 November 2002
I thought they'd never be able to squeeze another laugh out of somebody smoking grass again, not after the last few Cheech and Chong movies, but here it is all over again. There really isn't that much dope smoked, and that only at the beginning, and it is amusing. The scene is used to establish the fact that James Woods' character, Eddie Dodd, is a leftover radical from the 1960s. In case you didn't get it from his smoking grass, a habit he kicks during the trial (a throwback not to the 1960s but to "Reefer Madness"), he also has a pony tail.

Well, the poor guy has gone downhill since his early activist days. He still spouts the rhetoric but has stooped to defending coke dealers and making a good deal of money from his cases, using the money, he claims, to handle his marijuana cases pro bono. A newly minted lawyer from Michigan (Downey) joins him and, though disillusioned, pals up and helps handle the case of Ku Shai Kim, a Korean falsely convicted of homicide 8 years ago, now a resident of what appears to be Sing Sing. The location shooting was done in Oakland, apparently, but it all looks rather New Yorkish except for Greenwich Village, which I once knew quite well.

The plot could have been recycled from a noir screenplay that had been resting in somebody's drawer for forty or fifty years, though it is played more for laughs than despair. The innocent Korean lad turns out to have been nailed through the machinations of a politically motivated and corrupt police force and DA's office. There are a couple of beatings. A murder or two. A flashback that reveals the true nature of the crime. The prisoner is freed -- a more recent killing, probably in self defense, is entirely skipped over -- and joins his happy family and goes home to a meal of bulkogi or something. Woods, his faith in the justice system, in human nature, and in himself restored, claps his new law partner on the back and begins spouting 1960s slogans again as they stroll into the sunset.

Woods is up to the role, as usual, wisecracking has way through the most demanding travails. (While being pounded to a pulp and being called, "A ****** Jew," he grimaces through his pain and snaps, "Only half." There is one scene, towards the end, when someone's brains are blown out in front of him and he looks shocked and convincingly frightened, although the moment doesn't last long. Abject cowardice is not Woods' strong suit as an actor. He can't seem to hold back these fleeting, nervous smiles. They come and go in an instant, meaninglessly. Natalie Wood had the same problem. Bogart had his lip twitches too, but he was judicious about their deployment. Robert Downey looks appealingly innocent.

Margaret Colin is plumply pretty. She generally holds her face down and looks upward at people with her great big dark attractive calf-like eyes. Poor Kurtwood Smith. A villain again. His voice has a built in sneer, his eyes seem small, and his profile is almost flat. But he's a reliable villain. Some character actors give the impression that they're being treated unfairly by being cast in the same slots repeatedly, but Smith would have a hard time being anything other than what he usually plays. The other players are decent as well.

Perhaps the funniest scene is a brief argument between Downey and a psychiatric patient who believes Kennedy was assassinated by the phone company because he wanted to break it up into smaller companies and the company would never let him do that. Downey tells him that the phone company actually has been split up. The patient says, "Oh -- and you BELIEVE that?" Downey begins to argue with the guy, saying he can bring papers that will prove he's telling the truth, until interrupted by Woods, who begs him to stop, "Please!"

There is nothing new in this film. The disillusioned activist business is superimposed on a traditional plot. But it's easy to watch, amusing in parts, and occasionally brings a welcome tension to the screen. I've seen it several times and rather enjoyed it.
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