True Believer (1989)

R | 104 mins | Drama | 17 February 1989

Director:

Joseph Ruben

Writer:

Wesley Strick

Cinematographer:

John W. Lindley

Editor:

George Bowers

Production Designer:

Lawrence Miller

Production Company:

TBP, Inc.
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HISTORY

According to the 19 Dec 1985 DV, Peter Rosten was signed to produce the film for Paramount Pictures, by executive producers, Walter F. Parkes and Lawrence Lasker. However, Columbia Pictures would later take over the project, as reported in the 4 May 1987 DV, and Peter Rosten would serve as executive producer.
       The 5 Feb 1988 HR announced that a month of filming would take place in the Oakland, CA, City Council chambers, where filmmakers would shoot the courtroom sequences.
       Principal photography began on 1 Mar 1988, according to the 8 Mar 1988 HR production chart, which also cited San Leandro, CA, and New York City as locations. Shooting also occurred at Folsom Prison in Represa, CA, as reported in the 18 Mar 1988 DV. Production was completed on 27 Apr 1988, as announced in a 4 May 1988 DV news item.
       The release was originally planned for fall or Christmas 1988, but was delayed until the following spring so as not to conflict with the release of another Columbia Pictures film, Physical Evidence (1989, see entry), with a similar storyline.
       According to a news item in the 12 May 1995 HR, Chol Soo Lee, whose wrongful imprisonment was the inspiration for the picture, was back in jail awaiting trial on felony weapon possession charges. If convicted, Lee would face a mandatory twenty-five year sentence, based on California’s “three strikes” law.
       End credits acknowledge: "Special Thanks to: Hotel Maxim; The U.S. Department of the Interior and National Park Service; F & M Plumping Supply Company; Ron Skaar of Palate Catering, ... More Less

According to the 19 Dec 1985 DV, Peter Rosten was signed to produce the film for Paramount Pictures, by executive producers, Walter F. Parkes and Lawrence Lasker. However, Columbia Pictures would later take over the project, as reported in the 4 May 1987 DV, and Peter Rosten would serve as executive producer.
       The 5 Feb 1988 HR announced that a month of filming would take place in the Oakland, CA, City Council chambers, where filmmakers would shoot the courtroom sequences.
       Principal photography began on 1 Mar 1988, according to the 8 Mar 1988 HR production chart, which also cited San Leandro, CA, and New York City as locations. Shooting also occurred at Folsom Prison in Represa, CA, as reported in the 18 Mar 1988 DV. Production was completed on 27 Apr 1988, as announced in a 4 May 1988 DV news item.
       The release was originally planned for fall or Christmas 1988, but was delayed until the following spring so as not to conflict with the release of another Columbia Pictures film, Physical Evidence (1989, see entry), with a similar storyline.
       According to a news item in the 12 May 1995 HR, Chol Soo Lee, whose wrongful imprisonment was the inspiration for the picture, was back in jail awaiting trial on felony weapon possession charges. If convicted, Lee would face a mandatory twenty-five year sentence, based on California’s “three strikes” law.
       End credits acknowledge: "Special Thanks to: Hotel Maxim; The U.S. Department of the Interior and National Park Service; F & M Plumping Supply Company; Ron Skaar of Palate Catering, San Francisco; Daily News, New York News, Inc.; City of New York Mayor's Office for Film, Theatre and Broadcasting." Also noted: "Filmed in the cities of Oakland and San Francisco, California and New York, New York." More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
19 Dec 1985.
---
Daily Variety
4 May 1987.
---
Daily Variety
18 Mar 1988.
---
Daily Variety
18 Apr 1988
p. 10, 21.
Daily Variety
4 May 1988.
---
Daily Variety
3 Feb 1989
p. 3, 26.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Feb 1988.
---
Hollywood Reporter
2 Mar 1988.
---
Hollywood Reporter
8 Mar 1988.
---
Hollywood Reporter
15 Feb 1989
p. 4, 20.
Hollywood Reporter
12 May 1995.
---
LAHExam
2 Dec 1988.
---
Los Angeles Times
17 Feb 1989
p. 6.
New York Times
17 Feb 1989
p. 10.
Variety
8 Feb 1989
p. 18.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Columbia Pictures presents
A Lasker/Parkes production
A Joseph Ruben film
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
Unit prod mgr, New York crew
2d asst dir, New York crew
PRODUCERS
Co-prod
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Addl 1st asst cam
Addl 1st asst cam
Steadicam op
Asst Steadicam op
Gaffer
Best boy
Key grip
Best boy grip
Dolly grip
Dolly grip
Still photog
Period stills by
Cam op, New York crew
1st asst cam, New York crew
2d asst cam, New York crew
Steadicam op, New York crew
Gaffer, New York crew
Best boy/Elec, New York crew
Key grip, New York crew
Best boy grip, New York crew
Still photog, New York crew
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Storyboard artist
Illustrator
Art dir, New York crew
Art researcher, New York crew
FILM EDITORS
1st asst ed
Asst ed
Apprentice ed
Post prod coord
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Leadman
Set des
Prop master
Asst props
Set dresser
Set dresser
Const coord
Const foreman
Scenic artist
Set dec, New York crew
Prop master, New York crew
Asst props, New York crew
Const coord, New York crew
Master scenic artist, New York crew
Scenic artist, New York crew
Standby scenic artist, New York crew
Asst scenic artist
COSTUMES
Cost supv
Set costumer
Costumer
Men's ward supv, New York crew
Women's ward supv, New York crew
Asst cost des
MUSIC
Mus ed
Mus supv
Mus supv
Scoring mixer
Asst mus supv
SOUND
Prod mixer
Re-rec mixer
Supv sd ed
Supv sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Foley by
Foley artist
Foley artist
Foley mixer
Boom op
Cableperson
Sd mixer, New York crew
Sd ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff coord
Opticals and titles by
MAKEUP
Hairstylist
Hair stylist, New York crew
Makeup, New York crew
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Loc mgr
Casting, San Francisco/New York
Casting asst, LA
Extras casting
Extras casting asst
Prod coord
Asst to producers
Prod secy
Asst to Joseph Ruben
Prod auditor
Asst prod accountant
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Transportation capt
Transportation coord
Craft service
First aid
Loc mgr, New York crew
Asst loc mgr, New York crew
Prod coord, New York crew
Prod secy, New York crew
Prod asst, New York crew
Asst auditor, New York crew
Transportation capt, New York crew
Transportation, New York crew
Caterer, New York crew
Loc equip provided by
Prod asst
Prod asst
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Catering, New York unit
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunt coord, New York crew
Stunt coord
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
SOURCES
SONGS
"Busload Of Faith," written and performed by Lou Reed, courtesy of Sire Records, by arrangement with Warner Special Products
"All Along The Watchtower," written by Bob Dylan, performed by Jimi Hendrix, courtesy of A.R.M. BV & Are You Experienced Ltd.
“Freedom Rider,” written by Steve Winwood and Jim Capaldi, performed by Traffic, courtesy of Island Records
+
SONGS
"Busload Of Faith," written and performed by Lou Reed, courtesy of Sire Records, by arrangement with Warner Special Products
"All Along The Watchtower," written by Bob Dylan, performed by Jimi Hendrix, courtesy of A.R.M. BV & Are You Experienced Ltd.
“Freedom Rider,” written by Steve Winwood and Jim Capaldi, performed by Traffic, courtesy of Island Records
“Crystal Ship,” written by Jim Morrison, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore & Robby Krieger, performed by The Doors, courtesy of Elektra/Asylum Records, by arrangement with Warner Special Products
“La Marea,” written and performed by Rubén Blades, courtesy of Elektra/Asylum Records, by arrangement with Warner Special Products.
+
PERFORMERS
+
COMPOSERS
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
17 February 1989
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 17 February 1989
Production Date:
1 March--27 April 1988
Copyright Claimant:
Draco Film Enterprises
Copyright Date:
17 March 1989
Copyright Number:
PA408238
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Lenses
Lenses and Arriflex® camera by Arriflex
Duration(in mins):
104
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
29046
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1979, Shu Kai Kim is convicted of killing Chinese gang leader, Jimmy Chin, and is imprisoned. While incarcerated, he gets into a fight with a Nazi inmate, and stabs his attacker to death. Elsewhere, undergraduate law school student, Roger Baron, arrives in New York City to begin clerking for defense attorney, Edward “Eddie” J. Dodd. Roger is excited to work with the unconventional “hippie” lawyer who has made a name for himself winning several civil rights-related cases, although he has since become known for defending small-time drug cases. Soon after, Shu Kai Kim’s mother arrives at Eddie Dodd’s office with her translator, explaining that her son killed a man in prison while being incarcerated for a murder he did not commit. Mrs. Kim gives Eddie her files, and insists he take the case. When Eddie claims he is no longer qualified, Roger chastises his mentor for giving up. Eddie yells at the young clerk, telling him that everyone he has ever defended is guilty. However, after a restless night, Eddie decides to take Kim’s case. He and Roger and go to Sing Sing Prison, where Shu Kai Kim is incarcerated. From Kim’s files, the men learn their client is serving a twenty-five-year murder sentence after police determined his gun was used to kill Jimmy Chin. Prosecutors argued that Kim murdered Chin as an initiation to get into a Chinese street gang called the “Pel Street Dragons.” Eddie Dodd questions the story since Shu Kai Kim is Korean, and would never be admitted into a Chinese gang. Eddie decides to reopen Kim’s first murder case. ... +


In 1979, Shu Kai Kim is convicted of killing Chinese gang leader, Jimmy Chin, and is imprisoned. While incarcerated, he gets into a fight with a Nazi inmate, and stabs his attacker to death. Elsewhere, undergraduate law school student, Roger Baron, arrives in New York City to begin clerking for defense attorney, Edward “Eddie” J. Dodd. Roger is excited to work with the unconventional “hippie” lawyer who has made a name for himself winning several civil rights-related cases, although he has since become known for defending small-time drug cases. Soon after, Shu Kai Kim’s mother arrives at Eddie Dodd’s office with her translator, explaining that her son killed a man in prison while being incarcerated for a murder he did not commit. Mrs. Kim gives Eddie her files, and insists he take the case. When Eddie claims he is no longer qualified, Roger chastises his mentor for giving up. Eddie yells at the young clerk, telling him that everyone he has ever defended is guilty. However, after a restless night, Eddie decides to take Kim’s case. He and Roger and go to Sing Sing Prison, where Shu Kai Kim is incarcerated. From Kim’s files, the men learn their client is serving a twenty-five-year murder sentence after police determined his gun was used to kill Jimmy Chin. Prosecutors argued that Kim murdered Chin as an initiation to get into a Chinese street gang called the “Pel Street Dragons.” Eddie Dodd questions the story since Shu Kai Kim is Korean, and would never be admitted into a Chinese gang. Eddie decides to reopen Kim’s first murder case. Sometime later, he recruits private investigator, Kitty Greer, to search for Cecil Skell, an eyewitness to Chin’s murder, who claims to have seen someone else commit the crime. They find Cecil living in a psychiatric hospital, and he tells Eddie that the killer was not Chinese. At the appeals trial, Cecil Skell testifies to Shu Kai Kim’s innocence, and the prosecuting attorney attempts to get the mentally unstable man deemed an “unreliable witness.” However, the judge orders a retrial of Shu Kai Kim’s murder case. Eddie tells Kim he hopes to strike a deal at the pre-trial hearing to secure Kim’s release as soon as possible. He meets with prosecuting District Attorney, Robert Reynard, and proposes a deal in which Kim would serve two consecutive sentences for both homicides, eight years and four months in total, and grant him time-served, but Reynard refuses to accept. Sometime later, Eddie is beaten by a man on the street who claims to belong to the Aryan Army. The man threatens to kill him if he defends Kim for murdering the inmate. Eddie is curious when the teardrop tattoo on his attacker’s face, which symbolizes murders committed by the Aryan Army, rubs off. Later, he learns that his attacker, Chuckie Loeder, was excommunicated from the hate group a year earlier, and Eddie searches for him, believing Loeder is a link to Jimmy Chin’s real killer. In time, Eddie visits Shu Kai Kim and begs him to admit his innocence in Chin’s murder, telling him that a deal was offered to grant his release in five years. Kim has no desire to spend five more years in prison, but agrees to cooperate, hoping the truth will be revealed. Eddie turns down Robert Reynard’s deal, and the trial begins. Meanwhile, Kitty Greer tracks down Chuckie Loeder at “Art’s Plumbing,” where he works. When Eddie and Roger pay him a visit, Loeder flees, and owner Art Esparza chastises the lawyers for their disruption. After tracking down the Loeder’s address, Eddie arrives to find him dead from an apparent drug overdose, but believes he was murdered. With the trial progressing poorly, Roger suggests that Eddie seek another deal from D.A. Robert Reynard, but Eddie refuses. When Roger sees Maraquilla Esparza, wife of Art Esparza, at the trial, he follows her to the plumbing company and sees her having a heated argument with her husband. When she leaves, Roger confronts her on the street and asks why she was at the trial. She admits knowing Jimmy Chin, and is shocked to learn that Chuckie Loeder is dead. Roger theorizes that Maraquilla was having an affair with Chin, and that his murder had something to do with her infidelity. Eddie begins investigating Art Esparza and learns that, despite his lengthy “rap sheet,” he has never been convicted of any crimes. He sees a picture of Esparza from his younger days, and is stunned by his resemblance to Shu Kai Kim. He realizes how eyewitnesses could have wrongfully identified Kim as the shooter, and suspects that police were involved in the cover-up. Eddie and Roger believe officers stole Kim’s gun, and then planted it back in his apartment after the murder. Eddie visits Detective Vincent Dennehy, who testified at Kim’s trial, at his home, and asks him for the truth. When Dennehy’s sister, Connie, claims her brother was pressured to cover up the crime, Dennehy finally admits that Art Esparza was an important drug “snitch” for the department. He confesses that after picking up Chin’s body to take to the morgue, Dennehy and detectives, Lou Sklaroff and Dave Montell, shot Jimmy Chin a second time with Kim’s gun to protect Esparza. As Dennehy confesses to Eddie, Art Esparza arrives with Lou Sklaroff and Dave Montell. Esparza orders Sklaroff to kill Eddie, but when Sklaroff hesitates, Esparza points his gun at the lawyer. Sklaroff kills Esparza instead and threatens Eddie to keep silent, but Eddie is adamant that the truth be revealed. As Sklaroff and Montell threaten him at gunpoint, Eddie bravely turns his back on the officers and walks away. Soon after, he returns to court, and calls prosecuting attorney, Robert Reynard, to the witness stand, questioning his investigation of previous drug cases involving Art Esparza. Eddie accuses Reynard of orchestrating the cover up of Esparza’s murder of Jimmy Chin, and reveals that Esparza is dead. When Detective Dennehy enters the courtroom, Robert Reynard realizes their cover-up has been exposed. He confesses the truth, claiming to have no regrets because of the important drug busts made thanks to Esperanza’s help as an informant. After Reynard’s confession, Shu Kai Kim is released from prison, and his family happily greets him. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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