True Believer (1989) - Rotten Tomatoes

True Believer1989

True Believer (1989)



Critic Consensus: A compelling mystery, social themes, and powerful performances from a pair of well-matched leads make True Believer a legal thriller that definitely passes the bar.

True Believer Photos

Movie Info

The only True Believer at the beginning of this drama is idealistic young attorney Robert Downey Jr., who apprentices under the guidance of celebrated civil-rights activist James Woods. Alas, in the years since the sixties, Woods has become a disillusioned, dope-smoking ambulance chaser. Goaded by Downey, Woods takes up one last "lost cause:" that of Korean-American prison inmate Yuji Okomoto, who is about to be tried for the self-defense slaying of another prisoner. As Woods investigates, he unearths several iniquities in the trial that sent Okomoto to prison. Despite the fact that the one witness who might clear Okomoto is an unhinged conspiracy theorist, Woods endeavors to re-open Okomoto's case--which plays right into the hands of sharkish, politically ambitious DA Kurtwood Smith. Chock full of plot twists and last-minute shockers, True Believer was popular enough to inspire a spin-off TV series, Eddie Dodd.

Watch it now


James Woods
as Eddie Dodd
Yuji Okumoto
as Shu Kai Kim
Robert Downey Jr.
as Roger Baron
Margaret Colin
as Kitty Greer
Kurtwood Smith
as Robert Reynard
Tom Bower
as Cecil Skell
Miguel Fernandes
as Art Esparza
Charles Hallahan
as Vincent Dennehy
Sully Diaz
as Maraquilla Esparza
Misan Kim
as Mrs. Kim
John Snyder
as Chucky Loeder
Graham Beckel
as Sklaroff
Tony Haney
as Montell
Joel Polis
as Dean Rabin
Will Marchetti
as Judge Quealy
Abigail Van Alyn
as Connie Dennehy
Deborah Offner
as Laura Gayley
Richard Fancy
as Ballistics Expert
Ginger Chung
as Translator
Gerry Bamman
as Brian Nevins
Cab Covay
as Teardrop
Tony Abatemarco
as Glen Fulton
Kenneth Grantham
as Cecil's Judge
Ralph Peduto
as Court Officer
Margot Rose
as Ms. Jessum
Jan Schultz
as Lindeman
Ken Grantham
as Cecil's Judge
David Espinoza
as Corrections Officer
Sean O'Brien Teague
as Clyde Gruner
Taylor Gilbert
as Reynard's Receptionist
Stu Klitsner
as Magnate
David Booth
as Minister
Peter Fitzsimmons
as Court Clerk
Stu Klitsher
as Magnate
Mike Stone
as Client
Charles Dean
as Detective #1
Gustave Johnson
as Detective #2
View All

Critic Reviews for True Believer

All Critics (22) | Top Critics (5)

Woods' angry energy is clarifying as well as terrifying, and when he unleashes it (usually without warning), the effect is to focus our attention where it belongs, not on a suspense story but on the mysteries of human behavior.

April 16, 2009 | Full Review…

A riveting legal drama.

January 26, 2006 | Full Review…
Top Critic

When I see Woods on the screen in the first shot of a movie I sort of smile to myself because I know that something strange and offbeat and maybe even inspired is about to happen.

January 1, 2000 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

What counts in Believer is not what happens but how. This is as good a how as any.

January 1, 2000 | Full Review…

Ruben relies too heavily on Woods' whirring turbines to power his scenes.

January 1, 2000 | Full Review…

Woods, as ever, is wired for a fight -- in or outside the courtroom. It's all Downey Jr can do to hold him back.

February 27, 2008 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for True Believer

Not bad but you would expect more from Woods and Downey who have contributed to the acting canon much more effectively in other films. Consider this to be a Sunday afternoon nothing else better to do type of film.

John Ballantine
John Ballantine

Super Reviewer

A defense attorney with a ludicrous pony tail defends a man accused of murder. I'm surprised by the critics' positive reviews of this thoroughly unexceptional film. Most of the reviews focus on Woods's performance, but whereas his other characters' extravagant posturing seemed to fit the situation and persona, here, he simply seems unreasonable and unstable. He irrationally yells at his cohorts, spouting treatises about justice for society's less fortunate, and everything he says is right and justified, but the manner with which he says it reminds me of those pundits on television "news" who do nothing but scream at each other. His character is supposed to be a remnant from the 60s, as indicated by the pony tail wig and the pot, but there's no real exploration of his past and how that past shaped his present. And amid all the histrionics is Robert Downey Jr. who has never been more unnoticable. As a film, this is a wholly predictable procedural with fewer surprises than the worst episode of Law and Order. The clues are all obviously placed, and the final courtroom scene is so theatrical that it defies all believability. Overall, after I read positive reviews of a film I didn't like, I normally reconsider my star rating, but True Believer was too poorly constructed and too pedestrian as a whole.

Jim Hunter
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

I don't think anyone could prance around in an outrageous gray ponytail besides James Woods. He plays a very unique type of hippie lawyer that I don't think i've ever seen before. Robert Downey Jr. also gives a classic performance as a bookish new lawyer trying to do the right thing. The story is interesting in that it examines two very important topics at the time, gang violence and racism. While those are two topics that get thrown around all the time, this combines them in a very unique way.

Conner Rainwater
Conner Rainwater

Super Reviewer

True Believer Quotes

There are no approved quotes yet for this movie.

News & Features