True Believer (1989 film)

True Believer (also released as Fighting Justice) is a 1989 American courtroom drama written by Wesley Strick, directed by Joseph Ruben, and starring James Woods, Robert Downey Jr., Yuji Okumoto, Margaret Colin, and Kurtwood Smith.

True Believer
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJoseph Ruben
Produced byLawrence Lasker
Walter F. Parkes
Written byWesley Strick
Music byBrad Fiedel
CinematographyJohn W. Lindley
Edited byGeorge Bowers
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • February 17, 1989 (1989-02-17)
Running time
108 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Box office$8.7 million[2]

The film is loosely based on an investigative series of articles written by Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist K. W. Lee on the conviction of immigrant Chol Soo Lee for a 1973 San Francisco Chinatown gangland murder. The news coverage led to a new trial, eventual acquittal and release of the prisoner from San Quentin's Death Row. Screenwriter Wesley Strick based the character of Eddie Dodd on real-life Bay Area defense attorney Tony Serra.

Plot summary

Eddie Dodd is a burnt-out attorney who has left behind civil rights work to defend drug dealers. Roger Baron is an idealistic young legal clerk, fresh out of law school, who encourages Dodd to take on the case of Shu Kai Kim, a young Korean man who was imprisoned for a gang-related murder and has now killed a fellow inmate in self-defense. Kim's mother believes her son was wrongfully accused in the gang-related murder. Dodd and Baron's investigation leads to a conspiracy among the district attorney, a police informant, and several police officers.[3]


Home Media

The film was released on Blu-ray in the United States by Mill Creek Entertainment on August 13th, 2019.


Strick's screenplay was nominated for a 1990 Edgar Award for Best Mystery Motion Picture. Film critic Roger Ebert commended Woods's performance for being "hypnotically watchable."[3]

At the time of True Believer's release, K. W. Lee told the Charleston Gazette he enjoyed the film "as fiction...but it was not a true picture. They have completely preempted the struggle of Asians."[4]

True Believer was popular enough to inspire a spin-off television series, Eddie Dodd, starring Treat Williams in the title role.[5]


  1. "TRUE BELIEVER (15)". British Board of Film Classification. March 14, 1989. Retrieved May 10, 2013.
  2. True Believer at Box Office Mojo Retrieved July 19, 2012
  3. Roger Ebert (February 17, 1989). "Movie reviews: True Believer". Chicago Sun-Times.
  4. "'21' not the first film to whitewash our history". Asianweek. Retrieved April 7, 2008.
  5. Rohter, Larry. "Movies: About True Believer". The New York Times. Retrieved May 26, 2010.
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