September 4, 2019

TRUE BELIEVER: A "Before" Movie
Starring James Woods, Robert Downey Jr., Yuji Okumoto, Kurtwood Smith, Margaret Colin, Miguel Fernandes, Tom Bower, Charles Hallahan, Joel Polis, Luis Guzman. Directed by Joseph Ruben. (109 min).

Review by Mr. Paws😸

True Believer is one of those ‘before’ movies.

Decades before being deified as Iron Man, little Robert Downey Jr was just starting to wear big-boy pants and still had his baby fat. Then there’s the always-great Kurtwood Smith, long before turning ‘dumbass’ into a catch-phrase. But the movie belongs to James Woods, the one-time A-lister who eventually torpedoed his own career by devolving into a paranoid right-wing nut-job (he's probably picking-out curtains with Jon Voight as we speak).

The meds are kickin' in.
In 1989, however, Woods’ patented brand of manic thespianism elevated more-than-a-few unremarkable films to something memorable. Case-in-point, True Believer is merely an average courtroom drama given a welcome turbo-boost by his presence. He plays Eddie Dodd, a once-idealistic lawyer who now spends his time smoking pot and defending drug-dealers. When young protege Roger Baron (Downey) suggests they represent a prison inmate who claims he was falsely charged, Dodd eventually takes the case, even though all the evidence suggests he’s guilty.

Dodd is self-serving, fast-talking, cynical, overly cocky and just a bit sleazy. In other words...a character Woods was born to play. He doesn’t simply chew the scenery...he gobbles it up and spits out the bones while the supporting cast struggles to keep up. Smith and Downey have their moments and you’ll probably wanna pinch the latter’s chubby little cheeks, but it’s Woods’ show all the way and his performance is easily the best part of the entire film. Whoever did his hair, however, should have been strung-up.

Since James Woods was at his Woodsiest during this era, True Believer is a fitting addition to Mill Creek Entertainment’s ongoing Retro VHS series. As usual, this release has no bells or whistles besides the throwback slipcase, but the film itself is entertaining, not-to-mention an interesting look back at a few careers before they took drastically different paths.


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