A high tech group of expert thieves high jacks and robs an armoured truck full of bonds. The police guards with the truck are killed and this brings in Lt Vincent Hanna, a detective in Robbery/Homicide for the LAPD.
The film is the whole cat and mouse game, whereby Hanna (played by Al Pacino) does not stop hunting down McCauley (played by Robert De Niro). the film is loosely based upon experiences of former Chicago police officer Chuck Adamson and his pursuit of criminal McCauley in the 1960's.
The crew of expert thieves are planning one big retirement job, but in between McCauley tries selling the bonds back to their owner. The owner finds out and tries to have him killed, but his plan does not work out so and it is him that ends up dead.
The retirement job is a bank heist, estimated to be worth a whopping US$12million. After this heist they each plan to separate and go their own ways, although they know the risk involved. By now, McCauley is well aware of Hanna gnawing at his heels, but he refuses to budge. McCauley and Hanna are both doing what they know best. It is interesting to see however, the likeness of the two characters. They are two sides to the same coin. Both have messed up personal lives: McCauley is a loner, whereas Hannas' marriage is falling apart and his daughter tries to committ suicide by slitting her wrists in the bath.
After the big heist, McCauley plans to leave the country with the woman he has fallen in love with, Eady. At the airport though, McCauley spots Hanna and dashes off towards the perimeter of the airport. Each unwilling to give up, a tense game of hide and seek ensues, which ends in the fatal wounding of McCauley.