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Jack Carter, the enforcer for London crime bosses Sid and Gerald Fletcher, decides to return to his hometown of Newcastle to investigate the suspicious death of his brother Frank. Although the Fletchers protest, as they worry that their business contacts will resent Carter's intrusion, Carter insists on going and takes the train north. Upon his arrival, Carter is stood up by Margaret, Frank's girl friend. In a telephone conversation with Margaret, Carter learns that Frank's teenage daughter, Doreen, is staying with friends rather than her. Carter then goes to his childhood home, where Frank is laid out in his coffin. Although Carter is a violent, unsentimental man, he stays the night to watch over his brother, after briefly leaving to reserve a room at a nearby boardinghouse. Doreen arrives in the morning and Carter asks if she wants to join him and his "fiancée" in South America the following week, as he is planning to run away with his lover Anna, Gerald's wife. Doreen and Carter, accompanied by Frank's friends, Eddie Appleyard and young barman Keith Lacey, then attend Frank's funeral, at which the only other mourner is Margaret. Carter attempts to persuade Margaret to care for Doreen, but the married Margaret demurs, although she agrees to meet Carter the following afternoon. After the service, Carter has drinks with Eddie and Keith, who express disbelief that a quiet man like Frank would die in a alcohol-induced car accident. Carter then searches for a former contact, Albert Swift, who he believes will have useful information. Carter looks for him at the racetrack, and although the terrified Albert eludes him, Carter finds an old enemy, Eric Paice. Although Eric insists that he is "straight now," when Carter follows him, Eric leads Carter to the country home of his employer, northern crime lord Cyril Kinnear. Eric is furious when Carter outwits Kinnear's security guards and ambles in, but Kinnear welcomes him and invites him to sit with Glenda, his drunken mistress, to observe his poker game. As Carter departs, Eric warns that he will inform the Fletchers that Carter has harassed Kinnear, but Carter dismisses him. Upon visiting the pub at which Keith works, Carter learns that another low-level racketeer, Thorpe, who is called Thorpey, was asking about him. As he is walking along the street, Carter runs into Doreen, who tells him that she is going to stay in Newcastle. At the boardinghouse, landlady Edna Garfoot listens eagerly as Carter makes an erotic phone call to Anna. After he hangs up, Carter is sought out by a panicked Keith, who has been followed by Thorpey and three thugs. Carter orders the men to remain in their car, and Thorpey offers him a ticket on that evening's train to London, although he refuses to reveal who bought the ticket. Carter tears it up and, after smashing the driver's face through the car window, chases the fleeing Thorpey. Carter easily catches him and returns to the boardinghouse, where he beats Thorpey into revealing that Cliff Brumby, a crooked slot machine dealer, sent him with the ticket. Leaving Thorpey to be guarded by Keith, Carter goes to Brumby's house, but when the large man is bewildered by Carter's presence, Carter realizes that Thorpey lied. Upon arriving back at the boardinghouse, Carter learns that Thorpey's three hoodlums returned, beat Edna and kidnapped Keith. Callously telling Edna that he can do nothing for Keith at the moment, Carter then seduces the landlady to keep her from phoning the police. Early the next morning, Carter and Edna are surprised by Con McCarty and Peter, two thugs sent by the Fletchers to return Carter to London. Carter gets the drop on them with a shotgun that he found at Frank's house, forces them outside and then eludes them in his rental car. Carter visits Keith, who was badly beaten by Thorpey's goons, and tosses him some money for "karate lessons." Furious, Keith screams after him that Frank was aware that Carter had slept with his wife and might be Doreen's father. Carter then meets Margaret on a bridge, where she lies to him, telling him that Frank was suicidal because she had ended their relationship. Carter is about to strike Margaret when Peter and Con drive up and he is forced to flee. As Carter is running, Glenda pulls up in her convertible and offers him a ride. Telling him that he was seen parking his car and she was dispatched to get him, Glenda, who is also Brumby's mistress, takes him to see Brumby as he inspects a half-built penthouse. Brumby tells Carter that Kinnear ordered Frank's death, although he does not know why, and offers him five thousand pounds to kill Kinnear. Realizing that Brumby is not telling the complete truth, and that he wants Kinnear dead because he is competition, Carter rejects the offer. As he is leaving, Carter is again picked up by Glenda, who takes him to her apartment. They have sex, and Carter learns that Glenda acts in Kinnear's pornographic films, which Brumby likes to watch. When Glenda realizes that Carter is interested in her only for the information she can provide, she storms off to have a bath, and Carter switches on the movie projector by the bed. He is horrified upon seeing the pornographic film, which features Glenda and Margaret fighting over Doreen, who is forced to have sex with Albert. Carter's tears soon turn to fury and he half-drowns Glenda, who reveals that Doreen was "pulled," or recruited, for the film by Eric and that it was made by Kinnear. Realizing now that they all had a hand in Frank's death, and why, Carter begins his revenge by locking Glenda in the trunk of her car. Parking the car at a ferry landing, Carter goes across the river to find Albert in a betting shop. In the back courtyard, Carter threatens Albert until he confesses that after Brumby saw the film, he learned Doreen's identity. A few days later, Frank was dragged to Albert's by Eric, who forced Frank to drink a bottle of whisky, then made it seem as if he was killed while driving drunk. Carter stabs Albert to death, then returns to the ferry landing, where Con, Peter, Eric and their men are waiting for him. As they exchange gunfire, Peter taunts Carter by stating that he informed Gerald of his affair with Anna, and that Gerald will maim her. After Carter shoots and kills Peter, the others run away, but, unaware that Glenda is in the trunk, they first push her car into the deep water so that Carter will not have transportation, and Glenda drowns. Driving his rental car, Carter and races to Brumby's building, where Brumby admits that he showed Frank the film in the hope that Frank would kill Kinnear. When Frank threatened to go to the police, however, he was murdered. Carter then tosses Brumby over the ledge, and the racketeer falls to his death. After mailing the film to the Scotland Yard, Carter purchases drugs and a syringe, then ambushes Margaret. Calling Kinnear, Carter tells him that he will trade the information he has against him for Eric, and Kinnear agrees to the deal, arranging to have Eric meet him at 6:00 a.m. the following morning. Unknown to Carter, Kinnear then calls a professional assassin, who wears a signet ring with the letter "J," and tells him where Carter will be. Carter takes Margaret to the outskirts of Kinnear's estate and, after killing her with an overdose of drugs, dumps her body. Before he leaves to meet Eric, Carter calls the police, informing them that a raucous party at Kinnear's has led to a death. While the police are raiding Kinnear's estate and finding Margaret's body, Carter meets Eric on a deserted beach. Carter tortures Eric by forcing him to drink a bottle of whisky, then kills him by bashing his head with the shotgun. After loading Eric's body into a coal cart that dumps waste into the ocean, Carter walks along the beach, satisfied that Frank and Doreen have been avenged. Just as he is about to toss the shotgun away, however, Carter is gunned down by Kinnear's hired killer. As the man then wraps up his equipment and walks away, Carter's lifeless body is gently tossed by the waves.