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In 1922, in the strife-torn streets of Dublin, Gypo Nolan, a poor, lumbering goliath, sees a "wanted for murder" poster of his best friend, rebel Frankie McPhillip, that promises a twenty-pound reward for information leading to Frankie's arrest. Although broke and hungry, Gypo suppresses his interest in the poster, until his girl friend, prostitute Katie Madden, berates him in frustration for their poverty. Spurred on by Katie's longing for passage to America, Gypo enters the headquarters of the British army and reveals that Frankie, whom he has just seen, is at Frankie's mother's house. After Frankie is killed in front of his mother and sister Mary, Gypo collects his reward money and finds his way to a pub. There, he explains to Katie that he acquired his newfound wealth by robbing a drunken American sailor. Gypo then shows up at Frankie's wake, where his edgy, defensive behavior and collection of coins arouse suspicion in some members of the Irish rebel army, which had ousted him earlier for failing to carry out an execution. To test their suspicions, the rebels take Gypo to see Dan Gallagher, the commandant of the underground army, who tells Gypo that if he reveals the name of the informant, he will be reinstated in the group. Eager to prove himself, Gypo blurts out the name of tailor Pat Mulligan and then invents a revenge motive for him. Dan, who is anxious to rout out the traitor, agrees to investigate Gypo's accusations at a meeting to be held later that night. Before the meeting, a now drunken Gypo is befriended by Terry, an opportunistic conman, who encourages him to spend his £20 buying food and drink for strangers. Dan, meanwhile, questions Mary about Frankie's fatal visit, and she reveals that Frankie had mentioned seeing Gypo just before coming home. Armed with this information, the rebels find a reeling, nearly broke Gypo in an "after hours" club and escort him to the meeting. After questioning a befuddled Mulligan, the rebels turn on Gypo, who finally admits his deed. Unmoved by Gypo's protests that he didn't know what he was doing, the rebels lock him up and draw straws for his execution. Desperate, Gypo breaks out of his cell and runs to Katie, who hears his tearful confession of betrayal. Filled with her own guilt, Katie goes to Dan and begs for Gypo's life, but discloses his whereabouts in the process. While sleeping in front of Katie's fireplace, Gypo is besieged by the vengeful rebels and shot. The wounded Gypo staggers to a nearby church and makes a dying confession to Frankie's grieving mother. As Gypo collapses for the last time at the foot of the altar, Frankie's mother forgives him.