Sonny Wexler (Burt Reynolds), a classic Hollywood producer, dreaming of the respect he commanded in the past, hoping for one more shot at the big time is hanging onto the threads of his career and his marriage. His last chance for glory is a script optioned from a hungry young writer. Sonny feels a renewed passion about this script and a personal connection with the material. So when the writer tells Sonny he has made a deal with a hot young studio executive, Damon Black (Benjamin Bratt), cutting the older man out, Sonny is enraged. He vows to exercise his option before it expires in 72 hours. He struggles to come up with the $50,000 to purchase the script and wrest control from Black, but has no more favours to call in and is reduced to desperate measures. He pleads for assistance from Syd Wolf (Charles Durning), an old studio buddy, but is rejected. In desperation he approaches an American loan shark and becomes entangled in a dangerous web of intrigue involving an ex-cop turned gun-for-hire (Rod Steiger) who agrees to burn down Sonny's daughter's restaurant. In return, her husband (Greg Germann) will collect on the insurance money and help Sonny repay the American to buy the script. As the plan becomes more complicated Sonny begins to realise the depths he has gone to for an ephemeral dream.