In 2013, the United States president (Cliff Robertson) is exiling all citizens who don't conform to his hyper-conservative views to Los Angeles, which became an island after a huge earthquake.
But, when the president's daughter nabs the detonator to her dad's apocalyptic weapon and sneaks into L.A. to be with the rebel leader she loves, the government taps commando-turned-crook Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) to retrieve the young woman.
And, if he doesn't succeed quickly, he'll be executed.
Defense attorney Martin Vail takes on jobs for money and prestige rather than any sense of the greater good.
His latest case involves an altar boy, accused of brutally murdering the archbishop of Chicago.
Vail finds himself up against his ex-pupil and ex-lover, but as the case progresses and the Church's dark secrets are revealed, Vail finds that what appeared a simple case takes on a darker, more dangerous aspect.