True Believer is a courtroom drama/mystery written by Wesley Strick and directed by Joseph Ruben. It stars James Woods as Eddie Dodd, a successful but embittered defense lawyer. Eddie Dodd once believed in shaking up the system and fighting for the disenfranchised and sidelined. But over the years he became discouraged and grew cynical. Now he simply gets drug dealers off and rakes in cold-hard cash so he can smoke weed in his office. Enter Roger Baron played by Robert Downey Jr.(well before his Iron Man days) as his new pro bono assistant. Roger has big dreams of making a difference and passionately believes that truth and justice will always prevail.
At first Roger regrets his decision to work for Eddie Dodd and becomes frustrated. That is until a woman comes to their office begging them to exonerate her son who is currently serving hard time for a murder charge. She insists that he is innocent of perpetrating the crime. Eddie Dodd originally scoffs at the idea of taking on the case but as he delves further and further into it he finds a fire reignited inside him. He comes to see this case as his way to redemption.
The movie is your typical courtroom melodrama. We have the classic tropes such as the team sitting around the office late at night eating Chinese food frustrated as they try to find something to save the day. But what is interesting about this flick is the pacing of it. Up until the end it seems that maybe the defendant in question, played by Yuji Okumoto, did in fact commit the murder. This leaves you invested in the film because you're not quite sure where it’s going. I found this a refreshing change since in many of these types of stories you can usually see the yarn unspooling fairly early on. However once the truth does surface it feels a little unsatisfying after all the investigation. That being said the finale does have a definite message to deliver which is respectable even though it may or may not sit well with the viewer.
The actors portray their characters with enthusiasm and do a nice job. It is the character arc of Eddie Dodd that is the focal point and drive of the narrative. This arc though felt like it fell short of its potential. The viewer watches Eddie go back and forth from embittered sleazy lawyer to zestful crusader several times throughout the film. Granted there is a definite change from how we first meet him to how we leave him. But as the credits rolled I had a sense that there could have been more done with that transition. There wasn’t a real cathartic moment for me that I was thirsting for during the movie. Overall though it was a likable story and is definitely recommended for fans of courtroom dramas or a good mystery.
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