Devastated by a hostage situation which resulted in the deaths of a young mother and her child, LAPD negotiator Jeff Talley (Bruce Willis) exits Los Angeles for a low-profile job as chief of police in the low-crime town of Bristo Camino in Ventura County. When three delinquent teenagers follow a family home intending to steal their car, they inadvertently pick the wrong house on the wrong day. The trio find themselves trapped in a multi-million dollar compound on the outskirts of town owned by an accountant. Panicked, the teenagers take the family hostage, placing Talley in exactly the kind of situation he never wanted to face again. Soon after, Talley readily hands authority of the hostage situation over to the Ventura County Sheriffs Department and leaves the scene.
After it becomes clear that the Sheriff Department cannot handle the crisis, Talley is forced to resume the command he had abandoned where the stakes quickly evolve into a hostage situation far more volatile and terrifying than anything he could ever imagine.