A grotesque bully, Giacinto (Manfredi) loses an eye in an accident and receives 1 million lire in insurance compensation. A great deal of money to a family of about 20 people living in poverty on the outskirts of Rome. He jealously guards his money until he encounters and falls for a prostitute. The response of this gallery of abused creatures is a plot to murder - and not before time. Although in the neo-realist tradition (including the use of amateurs in all but the key role), Scola casts an unsentimental eye on his feckless crew.