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Mobster Nick Scanlon (Robert Ryan) has bribed several local government and law-enforcement officials to make it easy for him to carry out his rackets; and those that can't be bought, are ruthlessly rubbed out. But the arrival of a new police captain, the maverick, incorruptible Tom McQuigg (Robert Mitchum) spells danger for Scanlon's mob.
With the city's prosecuting attorney and police detective Turk (William Conrad of Canon fame) in Scanlon's employ, McQuigg's attempts to clean up the city are doomed to failure, until he persuades a sexy nightclub singer Irene Hayes (Lizabeth Scott) to testify against Scanlon. But can McQuigg prevent Irene and his honest officers from the revenge of the mob?