In the present, a street hustler Charlie Miller (Gabriel Byrnes), blackjack dealer and mechanic Vernon (Stuart Townsend), along with Tiffany (Thandie Newton) are part of a trio who run a scam built around a fake diamond. They’re small time hustlers, infact the money involving the ring is a mere three hundred dollars! Larry Jennings (Jamie Foxx) is a successful gambler, he is approached by the two men to join them in a game involving serious money. Both men are also card sharps of some repute, especially Vernon who knows how to deal the right cards. They lure Larry with a partnership that could rake in earnings worth twenty thousand dollars! As Larry and Charlie talk business, Vernon robs the casino off forty thousand dollars!
Elsewhere, Tiffany ensnares a guy at the bar, who was bothering her initially, takes him to a warehouse with the lure of exciting times ahead, instead, lets in a surgical team, who rob the guy off his kidney, to sell in the black market! Bizarre!
A corrupt cop Scarne (Bo Hopkins) empties Vernon’s earnings, although the latter has the forty thousand stashed on his boots, so that’s safe. Larry agrees to join them. He heads with Charlie for a game; Vernon is already playing there from before. Larry is impatient and impulsive, he starts his own deal - losing over a hundred thousand dollars! The man is unaware that the three impostors are using money belonging to a mobster called Max Malini (Patrick Bauchau) – Larry pays a heavy price for the loss, Malini sending in his henchmen to kill Jennings.
Elsewhere, Dean and Eve (Melanie Griffith), erstwhile partners, she now runs an upscale bar and restaurant, are experiencing a bout of nostalgia. He is considering retirement - not knowing that the trio is planning on taking him on in a game with a buy in of two hundred and fifty thousand dollars and stakes over two million! At this point, the audience is let in on the fact that Vernon and Tiffany were lovers, until he stood her up and Charlie stepped in. Meanwhile, hot on the trail of the trio are Malini’s hoodlums, who catch up with Charlie and demand he pay the money Larry lost. A gun fight ensues, in which Tiffany and Charlie barely manage to escape and hide in the Magic Castle.
Although the film received praise from critics, yet fans were somewhat disappointed with Stallone’s late entry (almost half way through the film). He however, outshone the cast with his acting skills and also his portrayal of Dean, the sharply dressed character with great skill. Actual card sharps were hired to train the actors, and the major characters of Charlie, Marlo, Malini and Vernon – exist in reality. A good watch , even for the sake of seeing a new side to Stallone’s acting skills.