He plays a construction business owner, John, whose estranged son, Jason, is set up and arrested for a drug trafficking charge. Considering minimum sentencing laws and the fact that he has nobody he wishes to inform on for the prosecutors for leniency, the boy could be facing a 10-20 year prison sentence for a first time offender.
Appalled at this, John desperately offers to help the opportunistic District Attorney Joanne Keeghan (Susan Sarandon) bring down criminals big enough to help his son. She's initially not open to it, but after John is nearly killed trying to do it anyway on the street on his own, she agrees to set him with the DEA for the case. On his end, John gets the unwitting help of a ex-con employee, Daniel James, to introduce him to a local gang leader to get the bust ball rolling.
What follows is a delicate undercover dance with constant danger with John as a complete amateur finding himself a pawn of both the drug cartels and the authorities with their own agendas.
- 555: El Topo's number.
- Adult Fear: Having your son sentenced to prison.
- Alas, Poor Villain: After being mortally injured Malik uses his last moments to complement Daniel, before giving him the information he needed, solely because he had nothing left to lose.
- Artistic License Law: Throughout the film, many of the ex-cons talk about having two strikes. Missouri is one of the few states that doesn't have the "three strikes" law.
- The Cavalry: As John is being chased by the crooks at the climax, the police are racing to meet up him as fast as they can. They make it there in time.
- Colonel Badass: The drug-lord.
- The Dreaded: Malik is said to be this by police. Apparently, instead of having a few guys that robbed him killed by drive by, he opted to personally "bleed" them.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: The drug-lord decides to go peacefully, because his two year old son was in the car.
- The Informant: A variant since John is a respectable businessman and is working with the authorities. When the mob realize he is one, he's marked for death.
- More Dakka: The drug-lord pulls out a squad machine gun during the battle at the dump.
- Papa Wolf: John will do absolutely anything it takes to help his son.
- Rape as Drama: Implied, but not made explicit. It's stated that John's son was "assaulted" in prison. In a phone conversation with his father, Jason refuses to give any details, and nearly breaks down in tears.
- Reality Ensues: John is a huge guy, but when he tries to take down some criminals on his own, he's nearly killed before the police save him.
- Redemption Equals Death: Malik
- Prison Rape: Rather confusing and YMMV to say the least. At one point, John's son is assaulted and sent to the infirmary for 36 stitches. It's not elaborated as to what exactly happened, and arguable not implied to have been rape. But the pg-13 rating does claim "Strong Sexual Content", despite the film not even depicting nudity. Most reviewers believe this trope is the reason why.
- Resignations Not Accepted: Daniel is an ex-con who only wants an honest job. He was only supposed to point John in the right direction but wanted no part in the drug business. He got involved anyway due to Malik's demands.
- Witness Protection: After the case is finished, John's family has to go into hiding in that program and he's made it clear that he's going to have a difficult conversation with his second wife about that. Daniel turned that down, preferring to disappear on his own, but the $100,000 reward he gets for his role in the bust will help.