review for True Believer on AllMovie

True Believer (1989)
by Michael Costello review

Joseph Ruben's legal thriller about the awakening of a former '60s activist lawyer is James Woods' show all the way, and his passion takes the script to another level. While the story of a cynical older character who's reignited by an idealistic neophyte is hardly new, Strick's sharp, engaging, and fast-moving script, studded with '60s references, and threaded through with the theme of racism, would be absorbing with any actor in the lead. But Woods, as the burnt-out lawyer who has adjusted to the greed of the '80s by trying to pretend that he's protecting crucial legal principles in defending drug dealers, has never had a role to which he was so perfectly suited, and he tears into it with a riveting intensity. If the lawyer has long ago realized that the utopian vision of his youth was an illusion, he can suddenly appreciate a smaller battle where justice can still be won. Although some may be amused by the irony of Downey telling his boss to, in effect, put down the joint and get to work, the actor is an excellent foil for Woods in this tough-love relationship. The feisty Margaret Colin also scores as a laid-back investigator who gives as good as she gets, and Kurtwood Smith is effective as a federal attorney who practices a cold-blooded version of realpolitik.