Two very different people become friends and partners in this nautical drama. Nikos (Stephen Rea) is a radio man working on a Greek freighter when he finds himself stranded in Hong Kong after the firm that owned his ship suddenly goes out of business. Nikos is already depressed over his recent breakup with his girlfriend, and this latest turn of events hardly makes him feel any better; he develops a dependence on opium as he works a variety of odd jobs trying to keep himself together while waiting for his ship to return to the sea. Li (Ling Chu) is a ten-year-old Chinese girl, cut off from her mother and father, who has a sampan and asks Nikos to help her get the boat ready for the water. Nikos doesn't much care for Li at first, but her youthful optimism and determination to succeed make an impression on him, and in time he leads her on a voyage to find the family she left behind years before.
Marcus Burnett is a hen-pecked family man. Mike Lowry is a foot-loose and fancy free ladies' man. Both are Miami policemen, and both have 72 hours to reclaim a consignment of drugs stolen from under their station's nose.
Aimlessly whiling away their days in the concrete environs of their dead-end suburbia, Vinz, Hubert, and Said -- a Jew, African, and an Arab -- give human faces to France's immigrant populations, their bristling resentment at their social marginalization slowly simmering until it reaches a climactic boiling point.