”He not busy being born is busy dying,” sang Bob Dylan in the folksong “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding).” That theme of an individual’s personal rebirth is central to the storyline of True Believer. Eddie Dodd, a radical lawyer for anti-war activists during the 60s now uses his skills to defend drug-dealers from what he regards as assaults on their constitutional rights. His past idealism has simmered down into hardcore cynicism.

Eddie’s soul is stirred by Roger (Robert Downey, Jr.), a recent law school graduate who comes to work for him. He convinces his mentor to reopen the case of a Korean-American who has spent eight years in prison for shooting a gang member in Chinatown.

James Woods has a fierce talent for depicting driven and tormented individuals. His portrait of Eddie is abrasive, angry and — in the end — inspiring. Wesley Stick’s screenplay offers ample action on the streets and in the courtroom. And following his direction of The Stepfather, Joseph Reuben again demonstrates his laser-sharp focus on the human malevolence hiding behind surface respectability. True Believer really clicks as a modern day morality play.