Director Ridley Scott spins this yarn concerning a Harlem drug kingpin (Denzel Washington) who smuggles heroin into the country by hiding it in the bodies of U.S. soldiers killed during battle in Vietnam. There was a time when no one noticed reserved driver Frank Lucas (Washington), but when the criminal kingpin he was charged with transporting through the city streets suddenly dies, Lucas seizes the opportunity to build his own criminal empire. In the following months, Lucas solidifies his status as Harlem's most innovative drug dealer by delivering a product that is purer than the competitors' and cheaper, as well. When innovative businessman Lukas attempts to go semi-legit by becoming one of the Manhattan borough's biggest civil supporters, however, street-savvy outcast cop Ritchie Roberts (Russell Crowe) begins to sense a sizable shift in the hierarchy of the drug underworld. But Roberts is one of the few honest detectives operating within a corrupt system, and as he sets out to investigate the case, crooked detective Trupo (Josh Brolin) does everything in his power to compromise the integrity of his idealistic counterpart. Upon clearing all of the usual Mafia-connected suspects, Roberts begins to believe that a previously unknown black power player has come out of the woodwork to dominate the local drug trade. While Roberts and Lucas may be operating on opposite sides of the law, the one thing that both men have in common is a strict code of ethics that separates them from their opportunistic colleagues. Now, as a confrontation between the two men becomes inevitable and the fate of each becomes inexorably tied to the other, it gradually becomes apparent that only one of them will emerge from the conflict victorious.