Ruthless criminals, a dedicated honest cop, sultry women and a gripping plot...all the elements of a classic police action-drama are here in full force. Police Sergeant Bannion (Glenn Ford) is investigating the apparent suicide of a corrupt cop, then is suddenly ordered to stop and THE BIG HEAT is on. Driven to unravel the mystery, Bannion continues probing until an explosion meant for him, killshis wife. He resigns from the force and soon learns that behind it all is the powerful underworld led by Mike Lagana (Alexander Scourby) and his cold-blooded henchman, Vince Stone (Lee Marvin). When Stone's girl Debby (Gloria Grahame) makes a play for Bannion, Stone disfigures her face. In revenge,she tells all she knows. Ultimately, Bannion and Stone square off in a life-or-death confrontation.