Strike is a young city drug pusher under the tutelage of drug-lord Rodney Little, who, when not playing with model trains or drinking Moo for his ulcer, just likes to chill with his brothers near the benches outside the project houses. When a night man at a fast-food restaurant is found with four bullets in his body, Strike's older brother turns himself in as the killer. Det. Rocco Klein doesn't buy the story, however, and sets out to find the truth, and it seems that all the fingers point toward Strike & Rodney.
Young drug pushers in the projects of Brooklyn live hard dangerous lives, trapped between their drug bosses and the detectives out to stop them.
- In a Brooklyn housing project, a group of "clockers" - street-level drug dealers - sell drugs for Rodney Little (Delroy Lindo), a local drug lord. Rodney tells Ronald "Strike" Dunham (Mekhi Phifer), one of his lead clockers, that another dealer, Darryl Adams (Steve White), is stealing from him and "got to be got", implying that he wants Strike to kill Darryl. Strike then meets with his brother, Victor Dunham (Isaiah Washington) and tries to persuade Victor to kill Darryl Adams.
Rocco Klein (Harvey Keitel) and Larry Mazilli (John Turturro), homicide detectives, ride to the scene of Darryl Adams' murder. Larry and Rocco receive a phone call from another detective who says a man has confessed at a local church that he killed Darryl. The police meet Strike's older brother Victor at the church and take him in for questioning. In the interrogation room, Victor tells Rocco that he shot Darryl Adams in self-defense. Rocco finds holes in this story and starts looking into Victor's background which includes two jobs, a wife, two children, no criminal record, and aspirations to move out of the projects; Rocco comes to the conclusion that Victor is covering for his younger brother.
Rocco pressures Strike but Victor sticks to his story, so Rocco convinces Rodney that Strike has confessed and informed on Rodney's drug ring. Rocco arrests Rodney and then humiliates Strike in front of his crew. Strike gets together some money and decides to leave town, but a younger boy who admired Strike shoots Errol, Rodney's enforcer, with Strike's gun. Rocco lets Strike leave town.