NOTE: This spoiler sent in by Anne.
Opens with a Football game where the NYPD are playing. Jimmy Egan (Colin Farrell) is the main player and gets the word from the coach to do everything to keep their lead - they are up 14-10. He tells the team that he believes in them all and that they can do it. Ray Tierney (Edward Norton) sits by Megan Egan and watches the game with Francis Tierney Jr (Noah Emmerich), his brother. They win and there is cheering all around, but Francis Jr. gets a call that a bunch of men from his Division (Francis is the CO) got killed, four officers down.
Francis Jr. and Ray run to the scene and in a shabby apartment there are bodies everywhere. By the door, by the window, everything is a mess. An officer is taken out of the apartment on a stretcher as Jimmy runs in from the football game and looks at all the dead cops and starts getting angry and then locks himself into a bathroom, crying and breaking the mirror. He's very, very upset. Francis Sr. (Jon Voight) is at the scene as well, being some bigshot in the department (although it's not 100% clear what is role is) and makes orders all around.
In the hospital, Ray and Jimmy are sitting there and the officer who was taken in, dies. You can hear the wailing of the wife. It was a friend of everyone, it appears.
Ray goes into the bathroom and starts popping some prescription pills. Francis Sr. (his father) comes in and looks at his son and tells him that he should apply to be on the task force to investigate the murders of the men. Ray mentions that he isn't ready for something like that and his father disagrees, saying that the dead man would have done it for him, why wouldn't he do it. Ray tries to demur again citing an old incident that made him go into missing person's division, but his father will have none of it and in the end strongarms him into joining the task force.
Cut to the alley where everything happened. Ray and a fellow task force officer look up the window and know that whoever the shooter was, got shot and then ran out. They follow the blood and it stops, so the guy must have gotten into a car, but they don't know anything more. They find a cell phone in the snow. They have gotten some handouts of six prime suspects. An officer comes over and asks if anyone speaks Spanish because they have a kid who might have seen something. Ray says he speaks some and they go into a small convenience store where a man is yelling things in Spanish (note, most Spanish is not subtitled in the movie.) Ray tells him to calm down and get out of his face and gets the wife to take him to the kid.
The kid is sleeping on a couch and is woken up when Ray comes in. Ray asks him some questions and they find out from the kid that the shooter was bleeding from his stomach, he looked scared and when he was shown the pictures, they found out his name is Angel Tezo (Ramon Rodriquez.) When Ray asks what colour car was, they found out it was a white, four door car, a cab car, but not a yellow one.
Cut to the car, it's abandoned in some green, non-industrial area. Jimmy, Kenny (Shea Whigham), Sandy (John Ortiz) and Eddie (Frank Grillo) are all checking out the car. Apparently this was a deal gone very bad. They were trying to kill Tezo and get some money, but everything went bad and Tezo got away, killed their people and took the money. And he killed the driver. They set out to find and kill Tezo because he can finger all of them and he knows that they are out to kill him. They talk about drugs, payoff money and hits - obviously dirty cops. First, they torch the car and everything inside of it.
Cut to Tezo getting a doctor to sew up his gut wound in some safehouse while some of his cronies count up the money. Tezo obviously has a temper and yells at the doctor a lot. When the doctor is done, they hand him some money, but Tezo's girl hands Tezo a potato and Tezo puts it on his gun and while kissing her, shoots the doctor using the potato as a silencer.
Ray is sitting on his houseboat, looking at the crime scene photos and sees something strange in a photo, one of the men who was killed didn't have bootlaces or a belt on, so why were they there? He makes some calls, but doesn't come up with much.
It's Christmas (the next day) and Ray goes up to a townhouse and puts his hand out to knock, but then just drops off a small gift on the porch instead. As he leaves, the door opens and it's Ray's wife. They are obviously estranged and it is revealed they are one month away from divorce. They've apparently had a lot of difficulties and while they both care for each other, she can't go through it anymore and they part sadly.
Eddie and Sandy go to a convenience store and get everyone out and pistol whip the cashier until he tells them some information (and admits he knows) about Tezo. The man is given 24 hours to get information or they'll kill him. Eddie shows how unstable he is when he puts a gun to the man's head and fires it, but it's empty. They then pop the register and take all his money as well.
Francis Jr's wife Abby is sitting on the bed, she has a bald head and looks very sick. She takes some pills and Francis comes out, asking her if she wants to do this party. She says she wouldn't miss it for anything. Downstairs there is a lot of cooking going on, Francis Sr. is very drunk and the kids are running around wanting to open presents. Upstairs, Francis Jr. gives Abby a ring that says he will love her forever and Abby almost starts crying. They go downstairs as Jimmy and his wife and family come in and everyone starts opening presents.
At the dinner table, Francis Sr. is very drunk and starts overpraising Ray saying that he was always the brains, and would soon be an investigator and that his daughter, Megan had a huge heart and she became a nurse. He doesn't say much about Francis Jr or about Jimmy (son-in-law.) It becomes very strange and awkward at the table and it goes pretty quiet. Francis and Jimmy have a quiet talk in the hall about what is going on. Jimmy says that he'll have it under control. Francis is very worried about what is going on and Jimmy isn't giving him any information.
There was another shooting at the house where we first saw Tezo. The men look out and see cops and then there is blood splattering. Cut to Ray looking around and seeing that they were all shot execution style. Tezo's girlfriend, who we saw give him the potato, is there and Ray squeezes her (they talk in Spanish) and she eventually reveals (after Ray threatens to take her kid away) that Tezo was tipped off by a guy called Sandy in the police department. Ray says nothing to the detectives on the scene about the information and walks out.
There is a large funeral procession for the dead officers and Francis Jr. has a large roll as the CO. After it is done, Ray catches up to him and starts grilling him on what might be going on in his Division. His brother starts to take offense and they get into a heated conversation when Ray says that Tezo's girl dropped the name Sandy and that he's a police officer and that Tezo's phone was called by people outside, so someone knew about the bust that the four men were doing. Ray asks him if there is anyone who goes by that nickname in his department. Francis Jr. looks shady and denies that there is anyone. Ray and Francis Jr. part ways, with both being unhappy at each other.
Francis Sr. meets Ray on the boat and asks what happened with him and his brother. Francis Jr explains what he thinks might be going on and his father says to sit on it and see what really happens before stirring up a mess, after all you have to protect your own. Ray obviously doesn't like that, but his father orders him and Ray reluctantly agrees.
Francis Jr. confronts Sandy in the police showers and kicks everyone else out. Sandy, in turn, starts crying and feeling very remorseful. He tells Francis Jr. that Jimmy has been doing drug dealing and tons of planned executions and that he wanted Tezo dead so that he could start working with Casado (Rick Gonzales). Francis is shocked when he hears that his brother-in-law is doing all that. Sandy said that he thought that Francis knew everything, that everyone knew about it. Francis Jr. tells Sandy to give up his badge and gun immediately and never to say anything or come by again or he'd cut his pension too. Sandy tells Francis Jr. that the force is all he has, Francis Jr. says Sandy doesn't have that anymore. End shot with Sandy crying on the shower floor.
Abby is sitting and look at her children and starts crying, because she's dying and she's going to leave them. She hears the car pull up. Francis Jr. is sitting the car and is upset, not moving for a while as his wife tries to stop crying upstairs.
Jimmy and his wife are playing with the kids. They're having fun. They bring the kids in and show a foozball table and a huge TV. The doorbell rings and a gangbanger looking person is at the door asking for Jimmy. Jimmy comes up and orders the guy out back. Jimmy's wife is very nervous about what is going on.
The man is Casado and he's upset with Jimmy not keeping up his part of the deal to kill Tezo. He asks if Jimmy is slipping and Jimmy ends up pinning him to a wall, saying that he's going to take care of it and threatens Casado if he ever comes near his place or family again.
Jimmy calls his crew and they find out that Tezo's right hand man is in town and they bust down the door and break up their dinner. They throw the man to the floor and beat him, but he won't say where Tezo is. Finally, they push his wife down and take his infant, holding it against the ironing board. Jimmy tells Kenny to call in a child services call for baby with a disfigured face. He takes the hot iron and starts to move it closer to the child's face. The mother screams for the man to tell him what the police want to know. Eventually, he reveals where Tezo is and Jimmy leaves, giving the baby back to the mother, unharmed.
Ray tracks down one of his old CIs, a junkie, and after taking his stash and destroying some of it, his stoolie tells him where Tezo is.
Ray calls in the location and tells the task force to get there. When he arrives outside the building, he starts scoping it out, but hears some gunshots. He calls for backup and starts going up the stairs, scared tenants are pointing him upwards. Finally he gets to the floor and sees a dead body and hears some screaming and yelling. Ray looks to find Tezo in a bathtub with Jimmy standing over him, shoving a nightstick down his throat. Ray yells at all of them and pulls the nightstick out of the man's throat and says that he's still alive and to get help. Jimmy pulls Ray's gun out of Ray's holster and shoots Tezo three times in the chest. He hands the gun back and says that Ray will say that he was first on scene and shot the bastard who killed four cops. Ray asks if he's insane, and Jimmy pushes him against a wall and says that they're all cops, so just go with the story.
Ray and Francis Jr. are outside of Ray's boathouse and Ray is very upset, telling Francis what happened and asking him why Francis lied about knowing Sandy. Francis asks what Ray is going to do and Ray doesn't say much, wanting to get the blood off him and walks to the boathouse.
Francis Jr. is pouring a bath for his wife and Abby can tell he's upset. She asks him what's going on and he's silent. She begs him not to start with this now. Francis Jr. says that he's in really deep and doesn't know what to do and he's scared. Abby looks shocked (and very sick) and asks if there is any way to make it right. Francis Jr. says that no way that won't bring everything he's worked for crumbling down. Abby replies that she knows he's a good man and that she trusts him and trusts him with her children. She wants him to continue to be a good man for them. Francis Jr. replies that he has Abby's back.
Cut to a large office, a newspaper room. There are all sorts of theories going around and the fact that Tezo's mouth was busted in and that apparently there were splinters in his throat is circulating. This is big news. A call comes in for a reporter and he takes it, a man wants to meet. They meet in the rain and cold in a parking lot and the person who called in was a very disheveled looking Sandy. The reporter hides a tape recorder under his seat and tells Sandy that no recording devices are around when Sandy gets into the back seat of his car. Sandy doesn't mention names but says that 'everyone' is on it. That they sold their shields to the highest bidder. They killed people, dealt drugs and took payouts. He wanted to be a good cop, to protect and serve and to have pride in his job and in the blue uniform. But it all turned bad. The reporter tries to tell him that he can make a story out of this, get the truth out, but Sandy puts a white cloth over his head and shoots himself, splattering blood on the rear windshield.
Press conference and the police are pinning the 'vigilante' problem on the four officers already dead and Sandy. Francis Jr. is confronted by Francis Sr.and Francis Sr. asks his son how much he knew about all of this. Francis Jr. replies that he knew enough. His father expresses huge distaste and starts chiding his son when Francis Jr. breaks in that his father must have had a time where push came to shove. His father replies that he never took a payout and his son looks shocked saying he never, ever took money either. He then leaves, saying he has things to do, leaving his father looking distraught.
Ray picks up some street vendor food and wanders around some less than reputable part of NYC. A person is tailing him. Ray walks a bit more and then confronts the tail. It's the reporter. The reporter says that he knows what happened and implies that Ray is a pretty good cop, but he knew that he lied in a case a few years back to protect other cops (this is what is being referred to at the beginning when Ray had a small breakdown.) He tells Ray that he just wants the truth to come out about the people in his older brother's division, not bring Ray down. Ray leaves, very angry and upset.
In a bar, Francis Jr comes in looking for Jimmy and they go into the men's room. Francis Jr. asks Jimmy what the hell is going on and Jimmy says that he's doing what Francis Jr told him to. The collars are up, the crime is down. Francis Jr. says that he knows that, and that he never minded if Jimmy had to pad his income a little, but this was totally out of hand. He also says that if Jimmy thinks that Ray is going to just turn over and lie to the IAB (Internal Affairs Bureau) that he's wrong. Ray wouldn't do something like that. Jimmy tries to give Francis Jr. a bunch of money saying that it was 'his part of all the takes', but Francis Jr. just stares at the money and then leaves. Jimmy sees things crumbling and looks distraught.
Ray gets woken up in his boathouse with a call saying that he needs to give his statement to the IAB. Ray doesn't want to, he thought he had more time, but he goes in. There are tons of reporters outside as well as protesters who learned that Tezo was brutalized, teeth were found in his stomach and a lot of other nasty things. Ray and the IAB all shake hands, the men obviously respect him a lot. When asked what happened, Ray pauses for a long time and tells them that this isn't going to go how they want it to go. He says that he was not the one who shot Tezo, but won't say who it was who shot him. He then respectfully declines (over and over) to make any further statement. It's the only way that he can be true to himself and to the department.
Francis Sr. is seeing video of Jimmy saying that Ray killed Tezo and is lying. Another high up person in the department is saying that all these other officers are willing to testify that that is exactly how it happened as well. Ray is being set up and Francis Sr. says that his son wouldn't ever have killed anyone like that. He walks out of the office where he's watching the videos.
Ray and Francis Sr. have a fight about what Ray should do now. It vacillates a lot, but Francis Sr. just wants the department not to take a fall. Ray is still burnt up about the lie he was told to tell by his father to save the department years ago and refuses to do it again. He can't. Francis Sr's wife even comes in, but is driven out with yells from her husband. Francis Sr. is on his way to ordering Ray to lie about what happened and follow Jimmy's original story when Francis Jr. comes in and tells his father to stop. He is going to tell everything he knows about the corruption in his division (which he started) and will work with Ray to clear everything up. First, they are going to find Jimmy. Jimmy is in a bar called Irish Eyes and Francis Jr and Ray head there.
Kenny and Eddie are in a car driving. Eddie says that he needs some money, but Kenny says that they need to lay low, citing that Jimmy told them to. Eddie says that that doesn't pay his rent and goes into the convenience store and tries to rob it again. He gets shot. People start looking around and some gangbangers start noticing the ruckus. Kenny runs in and sees a man holding something and shoots him, but it's just a cell phone. Kenny starts to panic, knowing he has a serious problem now. Some of the gang members who are very upset about the police murders that have been hitting the press, start to smash up the car and throw things at the store. Kenny locks the store and tries to get out, but the police at the back exit too. He holes up and uses the owner as a hostage.
Francis Jr. gets the call about Kenny and Ray says that he'll take care of Jimmy and that Francis Jr. needs to take care of the Kenny / hostage situation. Kenny is frantically calling Jimmy, asking how to get out of the mess. It's implied that Jimmy isn't answering his phone. Francis Jr. goes up to the door and talks Kenny down and gets him to open up the door, saying he just wants to help.
Francis Sr. gets a call from an officer who is looking for Ray to arrest him. Francis Sr. says (honestly) that Ray isn't there even though his car is outside. The detective/officer asks to come in, Francis Sr. refuses.
Jimmy is sitting at the bar, looking at pictures of his wife and kids, drinking and depressed. Ray comes in, flashes his badge and orders everyone out. Ray says that they are going to make things right, holding a gun on Jimmy and tells him to put his gun on the bar. They both put their gun, badges and cuffs on the bar and prepare to duke it out, with whoever wins, taking the other one in. They fight, knocking down tables and chairs and flinging each other onto the bar, scattering Jimmy's photos of his family. Finally, they land on a pool table and things are looking rough for Ray until he grabs the cue ball and beans Jimmy twice with it. Jimmy falls to the ground, dazed and Ray falls with him, hurt, but better off.
Francis Jr has talked Kenny down and gets him out of the store and into a car and away. Meanwhile the whole neighbourhood is up in arms because of the police problems. One of the ringleaders who is getting everyone riled up is Tezo's right hand man who almost got his kid burnt up by Jimmy. When they see Kenny get taken away, the crowd starts to disperse, but is still pretty angry.
Ray has Jimmy in cuffs and is taking him to where the standoff was happening (just a few blocks away) when the crowd starts coming towards him. They want Jimmy. The Tezo right hand man REALLY wants him. They pull Jimmy away from Ray and hold Ray, not having a beef with him. Jimmy looks towards Ray and tells him to tell his wife that he loves her. They have armed Jimmy with a baseball bat and the other man has a crowbar. Jimmy realizes it is the end and drops the baseball bat. The man lams him over the head with the crowbar and Ray is screaming and struggling and they punch him one to shut him up and then all beat Jimmy into a pulp.
Ray staggers to the hostage scene that is winding down and Francis Jr. sees him, cutting off taking with anyone else to tend to his brother. Music plays over the words, but it is obvious that Ray is telling his brother what happened with Jimmy. They get into a car and drive off.
Ray, Francis Jr and Francis Sr are all in full dress uniform in a car, pulling up to a courthouse. There are reporters everywhere. They all look at each other and get out of the car together, all three going up the stairs, into the courthouse and in the reflection of the revolving door the final shots are of them shaking the hands of the prosecutors/investigator/bigwigs and then presumably going in to testify.