Michael (O'Dell) is an African-American teenager in South-Central Los Angeles, being raised by a single mother and beginning to drift away from school. Before long, Michael is running with a tough local street gang, the Kingsmen, who christen him with the nickname "Youngblood". Michael greatly looks up to the gang's leader, Rommel (Hilton-Jacobs), an angry Vietnam War veteran who is beginning to accept the fact that he's getting to be too old to be involved in the street gang lifestyle.
Shortly after Michael joins the Kingsmen, they move from merely battling other similar street gangs to becoming involved in a full-scale war against a local cartel of drug dealers. And, unknown to Michael and the Kingsmen, the head of the organization is Michael's own older brother.