Harry Mitchell (Roy Scheider) is a successful industrialist living in the suburbs of Los Angeles whose wife Barbara (Ann-Margret) is running for city council while he is having an affair. Harry is confronted by three blackmailers demanding $105,000 for a videotape of him and his mistress, Cini (Kelly Preston).
Because of his wife's political aspirations, he can't go to the police. Harry's lawyer advises him that paying the blackmailers won't likely make them go away, so he refuses to pay. The criminals up the ante by murdering Cini and framing Harry for the murder, demanding $105,000 a year for the rest of his life to keep the evidence they have on him under wraps.
Harry opens his financial records to one of them with a background in accounting, Alan Raimy (John Glover). Seeing that their mark owes money to the government and cannot afford the $105,000, Raimy agrees to accept Harry's counter offer of $52,000, at least as a first payment. Harry then turns the blackmailers against one another, putting his wife's life in grave danger in the process.
- Roy Scheider as Harry Mitchell
- Ann-Margret as Barbara Mitchell
- Vanity as Doreen
- John Glover as Alan Raimy
- Clarence Williams III as Bobby Shy
- Kelly Preston as Cini
- Robert Trebor as Leo Franks
- Doug McClure as Mark Arveson
The film is regarded as reasonably close to Elmore Leonard's original novel, except that it is set in Los Angeles instead of Detroit. Also, in the novel the Harry Mitchell character is having problems with the labor force at his business in addition to the main blackmail/kidnap plot.
The movie gained mixed reviews. On the one hand, Patrick Goldstein, writing in the Los Angeles Times, described it as "a dull, plodding thriller that finds Mitchell in a deadly war with a trio of crazed blackmailers." On the other hand, Roger Ebert, writing in the Chicago Sun-Times, claimed it "provides us with the best, most reprehensible villain of the year and uses his vile charm as the starting point for a surprisingly good film. ... This is a well-crafted movie by a man who knows how to hook the audience with his story; it's Frankenheimer's best work in years." The New York Times film critic Janet Maslin described it as "fast-paced, lurid, exploitative and loaded with malevolent energy. John Frankenheimer, who directed, hasn't done anything this darkly entertaining since 'Black Sunday.'"
The movie debuted poorly at the box office.