The story opens as two men come through US customs in New York. Oleg (Oleg Taktarov) is taking pictures, and Emil (Karel Roden) is nervous. Oleg is interested in photography and movies, and spouts on to the customs agent.
Across town Robert Hawkins (Kelsey Grammer) is arguing with his assistant Cassandra (Kim Cattrall) about his news network, stating that tragedy sells more. Cassandra wants to raise ratings, and they decide to film Detective Eddie Fleming (Robert DeNiro) as he does a stakeout. Eddie is a drunk, but a regular media attraction when sober. Eddie preps for his bust, and Robert's film crew follows the action, but misses the key scene.
Oleg goes "shopping" for a camera, then films Emil as they arrive at Milos's (Vladimir Mashkov) apartment to collect their share of a bank job. Milos tells Emil that Oleg got them caught and an argument ensures. Email wants his money, but Milos does not have it. Emil stabs Milos and strangles his wife, while Oleg films and neighbor Daphne (Vera Farmiga) watches, hidden. Emil hears her leaving but cannot stop her. Emil hides the bodies with a "Bohemian BBQ", dousing them in acetone.
Fire Marshal Jordy Warsaw (Edward Burns) gets the call for the fire. After subduing a would-be mugger, he arrives at the apartment fire, crossing paths with Eddie. Jordy finds a timer and deduces the fire is a homicide. Daphne tries to flag Jordy down, but the crowd is too big.
Emil has Daphne's wallet, and realizes she is in the country illegally. He finds a card for an escort service and calls the number, asking for a Czech girl. He and oleg start learning American values from shows like Rosie O'Donnell and Robert Hawkin's. The hooker arrives, and Emil tries to get information from her, but she knows nothing, and Emil kills her.
Jordy and his partner Bobby (John DiResta) return to the fire station and are rebuked by Fire Chief Marshal Declan Duffy (James Handy) for handing evidence to Eddie. Jordy tries to get a sketch of Daphne, sensing she has a story to tell. He returns to the burned-out apartment and finds Eddie. Eddie gets a call about the dead hooker, and tags along. Eddie deduces that there were two killers, and the murder weapon may match the one used on Milos.
Eddie and Jordy visit the escort service and talk to Rose (Charlize Theron). Rose recognizes Daphne from the police sketch, and also reveals that Emil and Oleg were inquiring about her. Eddie and Jordy race to the nail salon where Daphne works. Oleg and Emil are already there (Oleg filming, getting his "15 minutes of fame"). Emil gives her a warning, and they leave right before Jordy arrives. The cops see them and give chase, but they escape, beating Detective Jackson (Avery Brooks) and stealing his wallet/gun, and also shooting Bobby. Eddie fires a shot, hitting Emil in the foot, but they escape.
Eddie and Jordy interview Daphne, and she reveals that she once shot a cop who was raping her sister. Jordy asks to interview her alone, since she is scared. Daphne tries to get Jordy to let her shower before going to the police station.
Eddie meets with his girlfriend Nicolette (Melina Kanakaredes), and tries to propose to her in Greek. Nicolette is a reporter, and gets an urgent call from the network, right in the middle of his proposal.
Email and Oleg go through Detective Jackson's wallet and find Eddie's home address. At the police station, Jordy's boss complains to him about the shower, but Eddie covers for him, although he laters tells Jordy it was a mistake.
At home, Eddie is working on his proposal routine when Oleg and Emil show up and knock him out. When he comes to, they have bound him to a chair. Emil lays out his plan: he will plead insanity to the murders, based on the fact that they film their murders, and will later write books about their experience (like they've seen on TV). Eddie fights them, but is stabbed to death.
At Eddie's wake, Emil calls Robert and tells him he has a film of Eddie's death, and wants to sell it. Robert pays them. Meanwhile, Jordy takes Daphne to her apartment to collect her things, and the light switch starts a booby-trap - fire. Oleg and Email watch from an adjacent building. They leave as the fire department arrives, and Jordy escapes with Daphne.
Meanwhile, the police have learned about the tape of Eddie's death, and try to get it before it's broadcast. Oleg and Emil celebrate in a restaurant as the tape airs, and other patrons recognize them. Oleg and Email argue over the film credits, and Oleg stabs Emil and leaves with the money. Hawkins arrives with his TV crew and a lawyer, but Emil realizes Oleg toook the money. Jordy bursts in and Emil is arrested, proclaiming his insanity. Jordy takes Emil to an abandoned warehouse, but cannot kill him in cold blood. The police arrive and take Emil into custody.
Emil's lawyer (Bruce Cutler) starts Emil's defense, and Emil offers him 30% of his book/movie revenue. Oleg angrily watches Emil getting press. Daphne goes back to the Czech Republic to stand trial, and Jordy comes under fire for how he dealt with the mugger. Jordy is on scene when Emil is led to his arraignment, intending to kill him, but cannot. Oleg shows Hawkins the tape where Emil explains his plan to use the double jeopardy laws to excape prosecution, and tries to shoot Emil. Emil grabs a gun and shoots Oleg, then grabs Nicolette. Jordy shoots Emil repeatedly, killing him.
Oleg films himself dying; Hawkins grabs his camera. Jordy returns Eddie's badge to Nicolette. Hawkins offers to help Jordy, and gets punched in the face. Jordy stalks off, and the credits roll.