It tells the story of a group of men planning and executing a jewel robbery. It was nominated for four Academy Awards.
The film was shot in Los Angeles and Cincinnati, but the name of the city is never mentioned, giving the impression of an "urban jungle," rather than of a real location. Doc's gang consists of: Dix (Hayden), a hooligan from Kentucky with a gambling problem who sees the upcoming jewel heist as a means to finance his dream of buying back the horse farm that he lost during the Great Depression; Gus Minissi, a hunchbacked diner owner (Whitmore), who is hired as the getaway driver; Louis Ciavelli (Anthony Caruso), a professional safecracker, and Cobby, a bookie (Marc Lawrence) acting as the go-between.
In a tense scene during the well-planned crime (an 11-minute sequence in the film), the criminals confidently carry out the heist in a patient and calm manner. Ciavelli climbs down into a manhole, pounds his way through a brick wall, climbs the basement stairs to the jewelry store, deactivates the door's alarm and lets in the other thieves, and then heads to the main safe. With care, he slides flat on his back under the electric-eye system, picks the gate's lock, drills holes into the safe's door, gingerly opens a corked bottle of nitroglycerin (called "the soup" by the characters), and sets off a charge on the jewelry store safe.
Unfortunately for the crooks, the explosion sets off the alarms of several nearby businesses and brings the police to the scene more quickly than expected. Another mishap occurs at the end of the caper when a security guard drops his gun as he's being hit by Dix, whereupon the gun fires and wounds Ciavelli.
Under increasing pressure from his commanding officer, a corrupt cop (Barry Kelley), angry that his "patsy" (Cobby) didn't let him in on the caper, beats the bookie into confessing and fingering the other criminals involved.
From this point on, the meticulously planned crime falls apart as the cops begin closing in on the gang one by one. That includes Emmerich, a double-crosser and an adulterer, who ends up cornered with his much-younger mistress, played by Monroe.