Investigative reporter Steve Everett (Clint Eastwood) has just relocated to the west coast after getting fired from the New York Times. Thanks to his old friend, Alan Mann (James Woods), the editor-in-chief of The Oakland Tribune, Everett still has a job, but that's hardly the end of his problems. An alcoholic and a womanizer, he's been sober for two months and his marriage to Barbara (Diane Venora) is in as bad a shape as his car. Everett has also earned the hatred of city editor Bob Findley (Denis Leary), and not without reason -- Everett has been sleeping with his wife. One day, when another reporter dies in an automobile accident, Findley asks Everett to take over her assignment -- the final interview of condemned murderer Frank Beachum (Isaiah Washington). Everett researches the case before the interview, and finds Beachum was convicted of a robbery and homicide in an Oakland convenience store. But the reporter finds several discrepancies in the story, and a visit to death row only confirms Everett's suspicions that Beachum was not the killer. The reporter begins a hurried search for information that will stay the execution. Plagued by his inner demons, the reporter has 12 hours left to save the life of a man he knows is innocent.