New York. The city is exploding in mob violence. Officer Steve Burns is tasked by Lt. Vincent Hanna to go deep under cover and investigate “alleged” mobster Carlito Brigante‘s newly reconstituted crew, thought to be the source of the tension. Hanna believes Brigante’s claims to “fly straight” post-prison-release are a ruse, and suspects Brigante’s renewed grip on power is shaky at best.
Word on the street is that a newly arrived young Cuban thug, Tony Montana, is strong-arming Brigante in an attempt to muscle him out of the city’s lucrative drug trade. Burnout Detective Will Dormer has fruitlessly tracked Montana since he arrived from Miami, but holds out hope for a lead as Montana tries to find his footing in a new market.
Just then, low-rent mobster Lefty Ruggiero – in a misguided effort to climb the Italian mob’s inner ranks – attempts an ill-conceived murder-frameup targeting the two “spic bosses,” Brigante and Montana. Designed to drive the hispanic gangs into outright war, Ruggerio’s plan goes sideways when Ruggiero is arrested and brutalized in public by Will Dormer’s old partner, Det. Frank Keller. Keller, a scandalized officer who left town in disgrace years earlier, has been monitoring Ruggerio and other “low hanging fruit” in an effort to restore his rep.
Unfortunately, the bad bust puts Keller – given a second chance by his superior, Det. Charles Stanford – back on desk duty; he’s reprimanded publicly by Mayor John Pappas, now in full face-saving mode and concerned only in placating the Italian voting block.
Burns, meanwhile, is making inroads into Brigante’s inner circle, courtesy an old debt freshly paid by Big Boy Caprice. Big Boy’s info seems solid, but Burns is given a “heads up” from his friend in the DA’s office, Arthur Kirkland who warns him to watch his back. Kirkland, who’s been working with the feds cleaning up the Sonny Wortzik mess, tells Burns that a high-placed source fears there’s a mole in the department. All officers, especially undercovers, are in jeopardy.
As the Summer approaches, tempers flare when the city’s “top cop” David “Rooster” Fisk is revealed to be a serial killer targeting violent gangbangers. Ironically, the public views Fisk as a “righteous vigilante” and his colleague, Frank Serpico (the officer who nabbed Fisk) as a traitor. Interrogation of Fisk leads Serpico to suspect Fisk was no independent nut-job, but rather a well-paid angel of death. All of Fisk’s victim’s were from Gigante’s Spanish Harlem causing Serpico to wonder if Tony Montana was Fisk’s client. However, Montana’s well-publicized erratic behavior leaves him skeptical. He suspects a red herring.
Serpico surmises that someone higher than both Montana and Gigante has to be pulling the strings. New York’s power dynamic – a hodge podge of lesser gangs pre-occupied with internecine battles – is clearly serving someone’s interests. But who?
It’s not long before Serpico’s old friend, Steve Burns goes missing. A fish, wrapped in Burns pants arrives at Serpico’s door: A sicilian message from Michael Corleone, the true power in NYC warns Serpico to back off – or he may be next.
Carlito Brigante – Carlito’s Way
Vincent Hanna – Heat
Steve Burns – Cruising
Michael Corleone – The Godfather
Frank Serpico – Serpico
Arthur Kirkland – …And Justice for All
Big Boy Caprice – Dick Tracy
John Pappas – City Hall
Frank Keller – Sea of Love
Lefty Ruggiero – Donnie Brasco
Will Dormer – Insomnia
Tony Montana – Scarface
Sonny Wortzik – Dog Day Afternoon
Charles Stanford – The Son of No One
David Fisk – Righteous Kill