Cult Film Corner #1: James Woods Fights the Power
Last month, my good friend Jeff Yungman (the only person I know to have been given the key to a city) passed the bar exam. Marking the occasion on his blog, our pal John Barner recalled that back when the two of them worked together valiantly trying to get inmates’ death sentences commuted they often imagined themselves as the stars of this legal thriller.
Until I’d read John’s post I’d never come across True Believer (1989) but the thought of John as Robert Downey Jr and Jeff as James Woods, coupled with the DVD’s very competitive price, meant it went straight into my Amazon basket.
Woods plays a washed-up 60s civil-rights activist reduced to defending drug dealers in New York. Downey Jr is the idealistic young apprentice who persuades him to take up the lost cause of a wrongly imprisoned Korean-American. I know why it appealed to Jeff and John.
I love a good crime thriller but knew I’d be in for a treat as soon as I glimpsed Luis Gusman in the opening scenes. That man is a mark of quality. True Believer looks great, has plenty of good twists and is blessed with the sort of synthesiser score that is sadly absent from modern cop movies.
There are also the incidental pleasures of James Wood’s ridiculous pony tail and the irony of watching a young Downey Jr moan about defending people caught in possession of drugs.