James Woods is erstwhile civil liberties attorney Eddie Dodd, his idealism long since forsaken for 4th Amendment violation-under-every-bed cynicism, & Rbt. Downey, Jr., is his summer intern (well, autumn intern) Roger Barron. Woods character based loosely on Frisco criminal def. lawyer J. Tony Serra.
Dodd's conscience-bending guilt submits to Roger's yuppie charm, & the two pursue the mysteries of why a young Korean gang member is serving time for murder & now's offed a member of some supremacist cult in prison. Woods's Dodd is light years beyond over the top with this, but an excellent supporting cast (Downey, Jr., ["...so we can get off guilty little pricks!"], Margaret Colin, Miguel Hernandez, & "70s Show"'s Kurtwood Smith as a D.A. with a closet full of diced-up skeletons) & brisk dialog make him seem right @home there. To the paranoid, conspiracy-soaked veteran & witness to the original crime: "Cecil, are you what heroes are made of?" Cecil: "I did two tours in 'Nam."
If you can get past the new twist on the climactic courtroom scene & the veritable litany of continuity issues here, "True Believer" is one of the most watchable flicks I've seen---meaning, I can sit thru the whole thing without once hitting the pause button or pondering my full bladder.
The great scene in Eddie's kitchenette (with the de rigueur Chinese food) is especially instructive. When Downey, Jr.'s, Roger spouts armchair activist rhetoric ("We all think it's a good fight."), Woods's Dodd lets loose with a tirade against bleeding-heart do-goodism that would make Bill O'Reilly cringe.