When a law student accidentally kills the son of a mob boss in a fight, he finds himself relentlessly pursued by the mob and the police.
While conveying a Porsche from L.A. to Atlantic City, student Charlie has to make a stop due to engine trouble. Mistaken as rich, he's invited to a big poker game -- and wins big time. However Denny Halloran, son of a mighty mobster, is a bad loser and starts a fight. But he's also a bad fighter: he falls on his head and is dead. Now Charlie's in trouble; after he flees Halloran's father puts a reward on his head. Even the police won't help him against the mighty man... so Charlie has to run for his life.
Boston law student and part-time mechanic Charlie Farrow is asked by his boss to deliver a new Porsche from Boston to Atlantic City for a client. Close to Atlantic City, the Porsche breaks down. While Charlie waits for the car to be repaired, a cab driver, who has mistaken Charlie for being an Atlantic City high roller, takes him to a casino that has a bar room and kitchen, so Charlie can get something to eat. At the casino, Charlie earns the wrath of Denny Halloran, who takes exception to Charlie's beating him at poker. In the ensuing fight, Denny trips, hits his head on the sharp corner of the counter, and dies. Denny was the son of crime boss Matt Halloran, the owner of the casino, the police force, and the town. Wrongfully accused of murdering Denny, Charlie finds himself on the run from both the cops and Matt's henchmen. And the bodies start piling up. Can Charlie survive Matt's wrath and convince the cops of his innocence?
In Boston, the law student and lucky poker player Charlie Farrow works in a garage and is hired by his boss to deliver a Porsche in Atlantic City. The car has an injection problem on the highway, and while waiting the repair, Charlie asks the cab driver to take him to a restaurant. The guy sees the fancy car and the destination, Atlantic City, and wrongly decides to take Charlie to a local casino, believing he is a millionaire. Charlie wins all the gambles and the loser Denny Halloran tries to hit Charlie, but accidentally stumbles, hits his head on a counter and dies. His father, the powerful mobster Matt Halloran, puts a reward on Charlie, and the gangsters and dirty cops chase him along the night. Charlie runs to save his life, with the support of Karen Landers.
- In Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University law student Charlie Farrow (Patrick Dempsey) wins a poker game with his roommates, who are amazed by his consistent good luck. His employer, an automobile mechanic, assigns Charlie to deliver a customer's Porsche to Atlantic City, New Jersey. When the car breaks down near the town of Sawtucket, Connecticut, Charlie leaves it with a mechanic, then asks a taxicab driver (Peter Williams) to take him to a good restaurant. Based on his customer's car and destination, the driver incorrectly concludes that Charlie is a wealthy gambler, and takes him to the Smokehouse, an illegal gambling casino.
At the casino, Charlie joins a poker game conducted by dealer Karen Landers (Kelly Preston). Denny Halloran (A.C. Preston), an ill-tempered gangster who has lost steadily throughout the game, blames Karen for his bad luck and insists on dealing the next hand himself. When Charlie wins the hand, Karen advises him to leave the casino while Denny is in the restroom. Denny intercepts Charlie at the exit, but trips and strikes his head on a marble counter, which kills him instantly. Karen witnesses the incident and advises Charlie to leave town. Charlie returns to the waiting taxicab and explains his plight to the driver, who reveals that Denny was the son of crime boss Matt Halloran, and pushes Charlie from the car.
Charlie runs to the repair shop to find it surrounded by gangsters, and the Porsche destroyed by a runaway bulldozer. Meanwhile, in his office at the dog track, Matt Halloran (Ken Pogue) is offered condolences by Police Chief Travers (Marc Strange). Although the crime boss wants revenge against his son's purported "killer", Travers insists on following legal protocol. Matt Halloran wins the argument by threatening the life of the chief's son. Mr. Halloran offers his men $50,000 to capture Charlie alive, and circulates a photograph of Charlie Farrow to the news media.
At the police station, Detective Martins (Christopher Lawford) is puzzled by the case, noting that Charlie has no criminal past, and would likely not survive a fight with Denny Halloran. His colleague, Sergeant Halsey (William S. Taylor), advises Martins not to question the logic... hinting at the rampant corruption in their town.
That evening at nightfall, Charlie calls Chief Travers from a telephone booth, asking for police protection. He gives the chief his location and waits nearby while another man enters the booth. Seconds later, Halloran's thugs abduct the man in the booth, while police officers O'Rourke (Michael MacRae) and Smithy (Tom McBeath) follow Charlie, hoping to capture him for the reward.
Charlie takes refuge in a bowling alley, where a vigilant cashier notifies Matt Halloran by phone. Henchmen Marv (Sean McCann) and Sammy (James Kidnie) are deployed to the bowling alley, and after a harrowing pursuit through the pin-setting apparatus, Charlie escapes to find O'Rourke and Smithy waiting outside. Ignoring Charlie's request for police protection, the two officers turn him over to Sammy and Marv. Sgt. Halsey appears, demanding to know why the officers have been ignoring calls from the station. When Charlie breaks free and runs toward Halsey, O'Rourke fires his gun and accidentally kills the sergeant. Sammy and Marv leave the scene in a panic, while O'Rourke notifies the police dispatcher and tells them that Charlie is responsible for the shooting.
Charlie commandeers Halsey's car, with the two corrupt officers in pursuit. Although Smithy is shaken by their colleague's death, O'Rourke is determined to get the reward, and threatens to implicate his partner in the shooting if he refuses to comply. Meanwhile, Det. Martins informs Chief Travers that witnesses at the Smokehouse all gave dissimilar accounts saying that Charlie killed Denny Halloran intentionally, causing him to question Charlie's guilt. The chief dismisses Martin's concerns, noting that Charlie has killed Sgt. Halsey.
With the entire mob-connected police force and Halloran's gang searching for him, Charlie tries to blend into the crowd at a shopping mall. Karen Landers notices Charlie among the shoppers and makes her way toward the exit, hoping to avoid him. When Charlie's photograph appears on a television broadcast, he is confronted by Bill, a mall security guard. Charlie grabs Bill's gun and disappears into the crowd as Det. Martins orders the exits blocked. Realizing he is trapped, Charlie falsely alerts the crowd to the presence of a bomb, and joins the stampede toward the exits. He recognizes Karen Landers in the parking lot and climbs into her car, begging for her assistance.
Upon arriving at her home, Karen tries to run away from Charlie, but he promises to leave after he telephones the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to report this and to report the huge corruption in this Mafia-owned town. Unknown to Charlie, the FBI traces the call and directs the local police to Karen's house. O'Rourke volunteers himself and Smithy as the first to enter, intending to kill Charlie, unaware that Karen and Charlie are speeding toward the city limits, planning to expose Matt Halloran and his control over the entire town to in the national media. Two of Halloran's thugs intercept Karen and Charlie, and chase them through an amusement park, riddling their car with bullets. The thugs strike a utility pole and are electrocuted by downed power lines.
When Charlie takes Karen to the hospital for a minor bullet wound, he is discovered by O'Rourke and Smithy, who pursue him through the hospital parking structure. Charlie steals a pickup truck and rams the police car, causing it to teeter on a ledge five stories above the street. He counterbalances the car by leaning on the bumper, but it breaks loose and both officers are killed in the fall. Charlie surrenders to police, and is taken into custody by Travers and Martins. Suspecting that Charlie is innocent of his alleged crimes, Travers intends to deliver him to the FBI office in a neighboring county. However, Sammy and Marv appear from behind and force the car off an embankment, leaving Travers dead and Martins unconscious.
Charlie is taken to Matt Halloran's office at the dog track, where he tries to explain Denny's accidental death. The cold-hearted Halloran beats Charlie unconscious, then orders Sammy and Marv to drop him from the roof of the building. As they throw him over the edge, Charlie grabs onto Marv's pants and climbs to safety, while causing both gangsters to fall to their deaths. Halloran sees his henchmen fall past the window and alerts Frank, his security chief. Frank chases Charlie into the kitchen, where he is knocked unconscious and relieved of his gun. Charlie takes refuge in a shed containing the track's mechanical rabbit mechanism. Halloran inadvertently activates the device as he fires his gun through the door. The crime boss corners Charlie inside, but is impaled on the mechanical rabbit. In the final shot, Detective Martins bursts through the door and is astonished by Charlie's unlikely victory.