The traditions of the western and the gangster film meet head-on in this dark crime drama. Jericho is a small town in Texas that in the 1920s looks much like it did in the 1860s, except that two violent gangs of rival bootleggers have driven away nearly all of the citizens not involved in the booze racket. Strozzi leads a gang of Italian rum-runners with the help of his right-hand-man Giorgio, while Doyle is the head of an Irish mob, with Hickey serving as his enforcer; the town's sheriff, Ed Galt is powerless to stop the crime in Jericho, and he mainly tries to stay out of the way and keep an uneasy peace between Strozzi and Doyle. John Smith (Bruce Willis) is a ruthless and amoral gunman on the run from the law who passes through Jericho on his way to Mexico. Sizing up the situation, Smith quickly hatches a scheme by which he'll sell his services first to one of the gangs, and then the other, eventually turning the two sides against each other while he stays in the middle and takes the profits generated by both sides.