Brothers Dova (Matt Dillon) and Milo (Gary Sinise) are small-time crooks. They and their partner, Law (William Fichtner), pull a holdup in New Orleans that goes terribly wrong. A police officer is killed, as are two other men. The robbers flee to a local bar, Dino’s Last Chance, desperately taking everyone inside hostage.
Milo is seriously wounded and bleeding. Law is a sociopath who is ready and willing to kill anyone who gets in his way. Dova is their leader, trying to keep the situation calm while federal agents, led by Browning (Joe Mantegna), surround the bar. A bar employee, Janet (Faye Dunaway), tries but fails to reason with the intruders. Her boss, Dino, behind the bar, secretly has a shotgun that he is hoping to get a chance to use. He does—grabbing Law and holding it on him, but Law gets the upper hand and bludgeons him. Besides a barfly (John Spencer) who is barely coherent and a younger man, Danny (Skeet Ulrich) shooting pool, there is one other customer (Viggo Mortensen), a man named Foucard dressed in a business suit, who is strangely silent and inactive all his time there. As the life of Milo slips away and the robbers’ demands to the cops go unmet, Dova decides whether to surrender or start letting Law shoot hostages one at a time. Law is especially terrified of going back to prison. Dova and Law prepare to take Danny as a hostage. But Janet pleads them not to as he is her son. It is revealed that Foucard is a wanted fugitive and the police really want him. Dova and Law prepare to give Foucard to the police and pretend that Foucard is the kidnapper and they are the hostages.
Milo has Dova and Law swear on their mothers that they will not kill anyone. But when painted into a corner, Law is more than ready to kill and Dova agrees. Milo wants no more of it all and prepares to turn himself in. Dova holds a gun on him to keep him there. When Dova and Law leave, Milo takes the knife he was given off a hostage and uses it to finish himself off. Dova finds out and is in tears. They prepare to give the police the wanted Foucard. The police finally storm the place and opening fire on people, including Law and Foucard. Dova and the real hostages are allowed to vacate. Janet covers for Dova as he kept Law from killing the rest of the hostages. Dova is traumatized.