On the run from the cops, bootleggers Frankie Madison (Burt Lancaster) and Noll Turner (Kirk Douglas), find themselves racing up to an enormous roadblock. The two split up, agreeing that if one was caught, the other would operate their nightclub and save half the profits for his partner.
The unlucky Madison is caught and when released from prison 14 years later, he returns to claim his money. Turner, never intending to split the money, tries to distract Madison by offering him the affections of his girlfriend Kay (Lizabeth Scott).
Madison's brother Dave (Wendell Corey), Turner's accountant, help's Turner by doctoring the books to hide the lucrative profits of the club. Madison is enraged that he has been swindled by his friend and his brother, and Dave finally helps Madison get his revenge and Kay's love.
Byron Haskin, in his directorial debut, brings a post-war idealism into the ordinarily cynical noir sensibility. Wendell Corey is particularly fine as Madison's cowardly brother, who manages to redeem himself, and Lizabeth Scott is touching as the vulnerable, romantic Kay.