Carl is a US Navy Shore patrol officer (played by Keitel) who is based at the Holy Loch naval base in Scotland. Armed only with a nightstick, his primary function is to ensure that sailors on shore leave do not become too rowdy, and to provide help to sailors in need of assistance. Carl is married to a local girl and their relationship is at breaking point - she wants to leave Scotland and settle in America while he wants to remain in Scotland. With his brother-in-law Willie, who is already estranged from his wife and under threat of redundancy from his shipyard job, the two men forge a friendship to help each other through.
Set around the Holy Loch US Navy base, the film was made in the towns of Dunoon and Greenock.