Washington DC, 1946. For two local young men, Pete Karras and Joey Recevo, the easiest way to find work after the war is by turning to crime - providing a little muscle for a local boss, Mr Burke, who runs a protection racket with the Mafia.
The trouble with Pete Karras is that he is just too soft on his fellow immigrants, and the last thing the boss wants is for his mob to get soft.
The boys have to teach Karras a painful lesson that he won't forget.
Three yeas later Pete and Joey meet up once more and a final confrontation puts the meaning of friendship and honour to the ultimate test.