Four men just barely on the right side of the law step into a web of danger and corruption in this drama. In the early 1950s, Max Hoover (Nick Nolte) is a detective with the Los Angeles Police Department who leads what's been dubbed "the hat squad," a group of sharp-dressed cops who are ordered to stamp out organized crime using any means necessary, with legality and delicacy not much of an issue. Hoover and his partners Ellery Coolidge (Chazz Palminteri), Eddie Hall (Michael Madsen), and Arthur Relyea (Chris Penn) are looking into the brutal murder of a young woman named Allison Pond (Jennifer Connelly). In the course of their investigation, they discover that Allison had a lively sexual history, and she possessed explicit films of herself with her lovers, including Gen. Thomas Timms (John Malkovich), leader of the newly-formed Atomic Energy Commission. Timms becomes a key suspect, and he reveals the first of a long trail of troubling secrets, but Hoover has secrets of his own that he's trying to keep covered in the process -- including the fact that he and Allison were once an item. Popular vocalist Aaron Neville has a cameo as a singer at a night spot.