True Believer (1989)

True Believer is loosely based on a series of articles written by Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist K. W. Lee that was all about the conviction of immigrant Chol Soo Lee for a 1973 San Francisco Chinatown gangland murder. His articles to a new trial, as well as the eventual acquittal and release of Soo Lee from San Quentin’s Death Row.

Screenwriter Wesley Strick, who wrote the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street as well as DoomCape FearBatman Returns and Arachnophobia, based James Woods’ character Eddie Dodd on real-life Bay Area defense attorney Tony Serra. Check out the ponytail on Woods!

Dodd is burned out, having left behind civil rights and idealism to defend drug dealers. His law clerk, Roger Baron (Robert Downey Jr.), urges him to take on the case of Shu Kai Kim (Yuji Okumoto, who played the best bad guy of all time, Chozen Toguchi in The Karate Kid Part II), a young Korean who is in jail for a gang-related murder and has already killed another inmate in self-defense. This being an older movie, the dialogue speaks about Shu Kai Kim’s distinctive Korean features, yet Okumoto is Japanese-American.

Dodd and Baron’s investigation leads to a conspiracy that has the district attorney, a police informant and several police officers behind it all.

Kurtwood Smith (RoboCop) plays one of the prosecutors. Character actor Kurt Fuller shows up as well — you’ll recognize him as soon as you see him. Plus, there’s an early role for Luis Guzman.

True Believer is directed by Joseph Ruben. whose history includes Sleeping with the EnemyThe StepfatherGorp and The Good Son.

There was a TV spin off from the film, Eddie Dodd, with Treat Williams in the lead, that lasted for six episodes in 1991.

Mill Creek Entertainment has just re-released this film on blu ray, complete with 80’s retro look packaging. You can order it here.

DISCLAIMER: This film was sent to us by Mill Creek.

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