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In Hamburg, Germany, American Joe Collins is considered by bank manager Kessel to be the most honest, hard-working bank security expert in the world. Unknown to Kessel, Joe has been devising a plan with his girl friend, American exaptriate prostitute Dawn Divine, to take the contents from bank safe-deposit boxes owned by several criminals and place them into one owned by Dawn. As Joe explains to Dawn, the theft will be beyond the law because the thefts of illegal funds can never be reported. Joe's plan depends upon his intellect and knowledge of the bank's expensive vault, coupled with information that Dawn supplies to him about some of her clients: Sarge, an American sergeant who is involved in the black market, and has recently graduated to smuggling heroin; Mr. Las Vegas, an attorney who is helping his Las Vegas clients evade taxes; and Candy Man, a sadistic killer and drug dealer. Although Joe has arranged for his friend Helga, a striptease dancer at a gangster-run nightclub, to report on Candy Man, she is killed, apparently after arranging for Dawn to meet Candy Man and accompany him on a flight to Copenhagen. Unknown to Dawn, Candy Man is to deliver some concentrated LSD that he has poured into an empty champagne bottle. On the flight, he gives Dawn the champagne to carry in her bag, telling her to save it for later. Upon their arrival in Copenhagen, though, she is stopped by customs officials, who say that they were given a tip that she might be smuggling drugs into the country. While they are questioning her, Candy Man surreptitiously takes the champagne and walks away. When Dawn is let go by the authorities, she returns to Hamburg, to the relief of Joe, who did not find out about Helga's death until after it was too late to stop Dawn. On the day of the heist, which Joe had already announced was his last before returning home, Joe sets his plan in motion by telling some of the bank employees to watch out for a suspicious-looking man with a scar. At the specified time, a nervous Dawn, who has been practicing her lines all morning, calls and whispers a threat to blow up the bank if Kessel does not give a man with a scar the gold bar on display in a secure case in the lobby. A nervous Kessel alerts Joe, who goes with him to retrieve the gold bar, then quickly grabs it and runs into the vault as he orders the clerk to shut the vault door immediately. Kessel and the others at the bank are amazed by Joe's bravery but worried when they realize that he had left the key to open the vault from the inside on his desk. Kessel communicates with Joe through the bank's video security system and assures him that the police are on their way and will look for the bomb. He also insists, over Joe's assurances that he will be fine and Kessel should not ruin a $50,000 door, on using a blowtorch to break the vault's lock because he fears that the air will not last until the next morning when it would automatically open. After the police determine that there was no bomb, scores of spectators and media arrive at the bank. While his plight is being reported extensively on German television, Joe quickly unlocks and empties the targeted safe-deposit boxes, placing the content of each into Dawn's box and timing his activities to avoid the security camera's sweeping lens. Meanwhile, thousands of people throughout Germany are watching television and hailing Joe for his bravery, even Sarge and Mr. Las Vegas. When the welder finally breaks through the vault door, Joe has completed his job and the safe-deposit boxes appear to be untouched. The next day, when Sarge comes to empty his safe-deposit box, he sees Joe and congratulates him for his "American know how" and bravery. As Sarge and Candy Man go into private rooms to open their respective safe-deposit boxes, they are stunned to find them empty, as is Mr. Las Vegas, who collapses in shock. Meanwhile, Dawn, who has entered the bank and taken the contents of her safe-deposit box, now bursting with cash and Candy Man's champagne bottle, is barely able to leave the bank without the assistance of an eager Kessel, who finds her attractive. As the day goes on, Candy Man is threatened by his drug contacts for not having their money, and Sarge, believing that his partner, the major, has robbed him starts to beat him up until Candy Man arrives and tells them that only the people who could not report their theft had been robbed. As they ponder what has happened, Candy Man sees a photograph of Sarge and Dawn, then takes Sarge and the major to her apartment. Although Sarge thinks that Dawn is "a dumb broad," incapable of being involved in the robbery, they find Joe's name and telephone number in her address book, then call him and quickly hang up. Candy Man, who says he does not believe in coincidences or heroes, waits while Sarge calls Kessel to ask for Joe's address, saying that he is a friend who lost his address. Kessel is at first reluctant to reveal the information but relents when Sarge says that he needs it for a party, which Kessel assumes is Joe's going away party. Kessel then has second thoughts and calls Joe to inform him what he has done. Joe tells him that it is not a problem, then quickly packs up all of the cash that he and Dawn have been counting. Dawn adds the champagne bottle to the suitcase she will take, then, on Joe's instructions, drives away in his car just as Sarge, the major and Candy Man arrive. While the major follows Dawn, Sarge and Candy Man pursue Joe into his building, then through the backstreets and rail yards of Hamburg. Meanwhile, Dawn eludes the major by boarding a train that is about to leave, then jumping off as it pulls out of the station. Joe makes his escape from Hamburg by hiding in a car being transported on a car hauling trailer. Early the next morning, Sarge and Candy Man see the trailer out in the country and moments later spy Joe walking through the snow. They jump into Sarge's car and follow the road around a frozen lake, and when the car gets stuck in some slush, Candy Man jumps into another car and drives out onto the lake. As Candy Man drives back and forth trying to run down Joe, the ice begins to crack and the car sinks, sending him plunging to his death in the icy water. Now Joe starts to run toward a moving train as Sarge gets into his car and follows. Some time later, as Joe is sleeping in a compartment on the train, Sarge puts a gun to his head. He demands the money, but when Joe opens the suitcase it contains only old newspapers and the bottle of champagne. Joe then says that Dawn has cheated all of them and convinces Sarge to work together to find her. They decide to open the bottle of champagne to seal the deal, but while Joe looks at his glass and wonders why there are no bubbles, Sarge drinks straight out of the bottle and almost immediately begins to writhe in pain as the concentrated LSD takes effect. When the train arrives at the next station, Joe throws the suitcase into the trash and walks away. Some time later, Dawn checks into a Southern California resort and is happily reunited with Joe, telling him that she knew that they would never kill him as long as he did not have the money.