Clinton Dillard (Andy Garcia) is a small-time smuggler, whose life revolves around driving across the Mexico-US border with exotic birds hidden in the door panels of his Cadillac. On an impulsive visit to his brother, a lawyer, he discovers him tortured, killed and his home ransacked. The only leads are Nadine Powers (Ellen Barkin), an ex-hooker who reluctantly agrees to help him, and a mysterious tape of salsa music. A trail leads them to the mob, a lawyer named Pratt (Morgan Freeman) and a Latin American contra.
The conspirators will kill to get the tape back but, even with lives at stake, Clinton is bent on revenge.