Based on William McGivern’s novel, a corrupt cop tries to protect his honest brother on the police force from gangsters.
After a woman and a man make an exchange in a telephone booth, another man comes in and stabs the man for working in his territory. He goes out, and a police officer is about to give him a parking ticket. When someone says a man was stabbed, he drives away.
Detective Sgt. Christopher Kelvaney (Robert Taylor) is playing poker in a backroom and is told about the crime. Chris asks the officer, his brother Eddie Kelvaney (Steve Forrest), to identify the killer, and he confirms it is “Wrinkles” Fallon. Chris pays a woman at a newsstand for information where Fallon can be found. He and Eddie break in to a pool room and arrest Fallon.
Chris gets a call and at a race track meets Dan Beaumonte (George Raft) and his girl Nancy Corlane (Anne Francis), who is drinking. Dan tells Chris that Fallon must not be identified by his brother. Dan tells Chris to offer him $15,000 for Ackerman. Dan tries to give his winning tickets to Chris, but he declines.
At a bar Chris meets Eddie, who is waiting for his girl Karen. Eddie refuses to accept the money even though Chris says they will kill him. Karen (Janet Leigh) comes in, and Chris reminds her that he knew her in Miami. Chris tells a man at the bar not to tail Eddie again or else he will hurt him.
Chris calls on Nancy and walks in on Dan. Chris says Eddie will go along. Ackerman (Robert F. Simon) wants to talk with Eddie. Chris tells Dan not to have Eddie followed. Chris leaves, and Dan tells Ackerman they need Fallon. Dan says he will get a hit man from out of town.
Chris calls Miami and asks for information on Karen. He goes to her at 2:30 a.m. and pushes his way in. He explains Eddie’s trouble and asks her to persuade him to accept the money. Chris says she was Frankie Nemo’s girl and grabs her. She cries, and he kisses her. She hits him and tells him to go. He gives her until noon and threatens to tell Eddie about her.
Chris visits Eddie at home and says he must see Dan and Ackerman that night. Eddie says he will be honest like their father who died. Chris suggests he take the money and testify. Chris warns Eddie against marrying Karen. Eddie says Chris is dirty, hits him, and tells him to go.
At the station Chris talks with the priest Ahearn (Anthony Ross), who asks about his brother and him. He tells Chris to stay away from Eddie and his girl. Chris asks detective Sidney Myers (Robert Ellenstein) to help him, but he says he is tired of corrupt cops. Chris visits Fallon in jail and says he is going to be sprung; but Fallon won’t say why.
Nancy is drunk and lets Chris in. He drinks with her. Dan and Ackerman come in with bodyguard Johnny (Alan Hale Jr.). Dan calls Nancy a lush and tells her to get out. Ackerman says, “Relax.” They say Chris lied, and Dan tells him to get out, threatening him with jail. Chris tells them to leave Eddie alone. Johnny tells Chris to leave, and they fight. Chris wins and hits Dan too before leaving. Nancy laughs at Dan and dumps ice on him. Ackerman fires Johnny. Dan tells Johnny to take Nancy away.
Karen sings in a club, and Chris asks her about Eddie. She says Eddie is nice, but she does not love him. Chris calls the police and asks them to keep Eddie inside. Chris gets a call from Dan, who tells him he will give Chris two more days to persuade Eddie. Chris asks Karen to persuade Eddie by marrying him.
Chris gets out of bed to answer the door, and Nancy comes in for a drink. She says Dan kicked her out. She says Eddie was shot dead. Chris gets a call confirming it.
Chris goes to the morgue and identifies Eddie. He learns Karen was a witness. Ahearn comes in and prays. At the station Lt. Vince Bardeman tells Chris he is fired for being crooked. Eddie says the killers are Dan and Ackerman and a hired gun. Bardeman asks Chris to help them crack the case.
Chris goes to Karen, whose room is guarded by police. He asks her about it and slaps her. She says she told Eddie she would marry him. She saw the man with the gun and describes him. She criticizes Chris for being selfish and blames him.
Chris buys more information from the newsstand woman, and at home he talks with Nancy, who says she knows nothing. He sneaks her into Karen’s place.
Father Ahearn sees Chris and picks up Eddie’s uniform and asks Chris to be a pallbearer, but Chris says he is busy. Chris goes back to Karen’s to talk with Nancy, who is asleep. Karen talks with Chris and suggests he ask for forgiveness. Nancy wakes up, and Chris says she is in danger. Nancy says Fallon has a picture of Dan and Ackerman.
Chris asks for research at the station. Chris talks with his boss and the D. A., and he asks for a few days to find the photo. The D. A. asks to talk with Nancy. Chris offers to testify against Dan and Ackerman even though he will go to jail too.
Chris learns that Karen went out and breaks in, finding Nancy dead in an overflowing bathtub. He calls Inspector Cassidy. The newsstand woman tells Chris where the hit-man is. Chris asks her to let Dan know what he knows. Chris sees that Sidney is following him and says he has a lead on Eddie’s killer. Chris makes a call.
Sidney waits outside, and Chris goes in a rooming-house. A man with a gun lets him in a room and frisks him. Chris says that Dan wants him to clear out. Chris distracts him and beats him up to get the gun. Chris handcuffs him, and Sidney comes in. They take him out, and Dan shoots at them from a car. In the gun battle Dan wounds Sidney. Chris kills Ackerman, and Dan shoots Chris twice. Dan tries to start the car, and Sidney kills him. In the ambulance Chris tells Sidney that he is a better cop and asks him to forgive him. Sidney says it is the biggest job of his life.
This film noir portrays a tough cop who wants more income and works in collaboration with gangsters. When he is unable to keep them from killing his honest brother, he realizes he will have to incriminate himself to convict the gangsters. Thus he realizes it would be better to be an honest cop who is less wealthy.