powered by AFI
During a meeting with the governor, Harry Craig, the lead investigator on the state's crime commission, reveals his suspicion that Assistant State's Attorney Roy Higgins is in league with a large syndicate run by a mysterious figure known only as "The Old Man." After the governor pledges to help the commission if it can come up with proof of Higgins' guilt, Craig and his cohorts prepare to confront Higgins with their accumulated evidence. Before Higgins' interrogation, however, Nick Scanlon, a vicious gangster who recently joined forces with The Old Man, orders his thug, Durko, to kill him. Driving away from the murder scene, Durko is recognized by police officer Bob Johnson, who then issues a wanted notice for the parolee. Johnson's efforts are commended by his precinct captain, Tom McQuigg, a tough policeman who has refused to be bribed by the powerful syndicate. Less than pleased with Johnson is Sgt. Turk, an investigator with the state's attorney office who is loyal to the syndicate, and judicial candidate Mortimer X. Welsh, the syndicate's replacement for Higgins. After McQuigg visits Nick, a childhood friend, and warns him not to cause trouble in his precinct, a bomb explodes outside McQuigg's house, unnerving his devoted wife Mary. Patrol officers spot a sedan near the scene and pursue the car until the two men inside crash and flee on foot. McQuigg corners one thug on a rooftop and fights with him until he accidentally falls to his death. Sure that the other suspect is Nick's younger brother Joe, McQuigg sends Johnson to the nightclub where Joe's girl friend, singer Irene Hayes, works. There, Johnson runs into cub reporter Dave Ames, an old Marine buddy who is infatuated with Irene. As Dave watches, Johnson arrests Joe for stealing the Rolls Royce he is driving. McQuigg then arrests Irene as a material witness. Nick, who dotes on his brother, pressures Welsh to get Joe released, and using his connections, Welsh arranges for a judge to issue a writ of habeas corpus . Irene, whom Nick hates, is not bailed out, however, and when Joe brushes her off, she screams that she is going to tell all. Based on Irene's statements about Joe's involvement in Higgins' death, McQuigg orders Joe re-arrested and keeps Irene jailed. Later, Johnson is visited at home by Dave and uses him to set a trap for Durko and another thug, who have been sent by Nick to murder Johnson. Dave leads the killers inside, where Johnson surprises and outdraws them. Nick, meanwhile, meets with R. G. Connolly, The Old Man's right-hand man, and expresses concern about Irene. Connolly, a businessman, tries to convince Nick not to resort to violence but allow the syndicate to handle the problem quietly. Nick, however, insists that his way, the old way, is best. Nick then walks into McQuigg's precinct and demands to see Irene. Deducing Nick's identity, Johnson insults the gangster and is shot. As he is leaving, Nick tussles with Dave, who delays him long enough for the police to initiate a pursuit. After Johnson, an expectant father, dies from his wound, the police force Nick's car to crash. As soon as Nick is arrested, Welsh and Turk produce a writ to free him, but McQuigg tears it up in disgust. McQuigg then reveals that both Irene and Dave are prepared to testify against Nick and produces the gun that killed Johnson, which is covered with Nick's fingerprints. Welsh calls The Old Man for orders, then nervously informs Nick that he must stay in jail until after the election. Furious, Nick declares that he will expose the syndicate and ruin Welsh and Turk. Thus trapped, Welsh and Turk decide to help the unguarded Nick flee, but McQuigg, having anticipated all their moves, stops him. As Nick makes a final, desperate escape attempt, Turk shoots and kills him. Later, after Turk and Welsh receive subpoenas from the Crime Commission, and Irene and Dave contemplate their future together, Mary drives an exhausted McQuigg home.