In the city of New Orleans, hitman Jimmy Bobo and his partner Louis Blanchard kill a corrupt policeman, Hank Greely, although Bobo leaves a prostitute, Lola, alive. Later, at a bar, Blanchard is murdered by Keegan, who also attempts to kill Bobo, but fails.
Washington, D.C., Detective Taylor Kwon arrives in New Orleans to investigate Greely's death and meets Lieutenant Lebreton, who informs him Lola confirmed Greely was assassinated. Kwon goes to the morgue, and, after seeing Blanchard's body and finding out who he is, he deduces that Blanchard and Bobo killed Greely. Meanwhile, Keegan meets with his employer, Robert Morel, and Morel's lawyer Marcus Baptiste. Baptiste reveals that Greely tried to blackmail Morel, and provided local mobster Baby Jack with a file detailing Morel's illegal operations. Keegan later kills Baby Jack and his men and retrieves the file.
Kwon meets Bobo in a bar and informs him that he knows Bobo and Blanchard killed Greely. Bobo leaves, and when Kwon tries to follow him, he is attacked by corrupt cops who were ordered by Morel to prevent Kwon from further investigating about Greely. Bobo rescues Kwon and takes him to a tattoo parlor, where Bobo's estranged daughter, Lisa, treats Kwon's wounds. They later go to a massage parlor where Bobo interrogates Ronnie Earl, the middleman who hired Bobo and Blanchard on Morel's behalf. Ronnie Earl tries to kill Bobo, but Bobo manages to kill him, although his gun jams. Bobo later confronts Kwon, who admits to having tampered with Bobo's gun, nearly causing his death. Bobo and Kwon agree to work together.
Bobo and Kwon kidnap Baptiste and take him to Bobo's house, where he is forced to give them a flash drive detailing Morel's plans to acquire housing projects and demolish them to build office buildings and reveals Keegan is an ex-mercenary hired to be Morel's enforcer. Afterwards, Bobo shoots him in the head. Keegan and his men trace Baptiste's cellphone to Bobo's house, but Bobo and Kwon are able to escape and detonate a bomb, killing Keegan's men. Keegan then becomes obsessed with killing Bobo.
Kwon meets with Lieutenant Lebreton to ask for his help, but Lebreton tries to kill him, as he is also on Morel's payroll, but Bobo kills him and saves Kwon. Meanwhile, Keegan learns about Lisa and kidnaps her. Morel then calls Bobo and offers to trade Lisa for the flash drive. Bobo agrees, and meets with Morel in an abandoned warehouse, where he delivers the flash drive to him and rescues Lisa, while Kwon infiltrates the building to arrest Morel. Keegan becomes furious when Bobo is allowed to leave and kills Morel and his men before going after Bobo.
Keegan confronts Bobo and they have an axe fight, which ends with Bobo slashing Keegan's throat with Blanchard's knife, followed by Kwon shooting Keegan in the head. Kwon retrieves the flash drive and Bobo shoots him in the shoulder to make it appear as if Kwon failed to capture him. Lisa decides to stay with Kwon, with whom she initiates a romantic relationship, and Bobo leaves. He later meets Kwon at a bar, where Kwon tells him he did not mention Bobo's existence to the police this time, but if Bobo continues in the business, Kwon will take him down. Bobo welcomes him to try and drives off into the night.
This film is based on the French graphic novel Du plomb dans la tête written by Matz and illustrated by Colin Wilson.
Sylvester Stallone's character is named James "Jimmy Bobo" Bonomo in this film. In Oscar (1991), Stallone's character talked about his first job, working for James "Jumpin' Jimmy" Bonomo. In both movies, Stallone has a daughter named Lisa, and both films include hitmen as central characters.
Thomas Jane was initially cast as the second lead by original director Wayne Kramer. When Kramer left the project, Jane suggested Sylvester Stallone to hire Walter Hill. After Hill took over directorial duties, Joel Silver came on board the project and fired Jane because he wanted an ethnic guy for the other lead role. Sung Kang was subsequently cast.
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