Berlin,1931. A power struggle is taking place in Berlin's underworld. The American gangster Abraham Goldstein is in residence at the Hotel Excelsior. As a favour to the FBI, the police put him under surveillance with Detective Gereon Rath on the job. As Rath grows bored and takes on a private case for his seedy pal Johann Marlow, he soon finds himself in the middle of a Berlin street war.
Meanwhile Rath's on-off girlfriend, Charly, lets a young woman she is interrogating escape, and soon her investigations cross Rath's from the other side. Berlin is a divided city where two worlds are about to collide: the world of the American gangster and the expanding world of Nazism.