It is almost the end of the Cold War in Europe. Specialist (rank) Ray Elwood (Joaquin Phoenix) is a U.S. Army soldier stationed in Stuttgart, West Germany, in 1989. He devotes much of his time to dealing on the black market and cooking heroin for a group of drug-dealing Military Police Corps (United States) led by the sadistic Sergeant Saad. As a supply specialist, Elwood poses as a model soldier and friendly confidant to his amiable commanding officer, Colonel Berman (Ed Harris). Berman has no idea what supplies his subordinate is requisitioning or that Elwood is sleeping with his wife (Elizabeth McGovern). But things change when a new First Sergeant, Robert E. Lee (Scott Glenn) joins Elwood's supply company. The new Top is both menacing and savvy, quickly assessing that Elwood and his squad are engaged in graft.