Based on the true events in Skidmore, Missouri in 1981, the film centers around the town dealing with violent bully Len Rowan (Brian Dennehy). After a confrontation at a local grocery, Rowan begins stalking the owner Ruth Westerman (Cloris Leachman) and her husband Wes. The harassment culminates with Rowan shooting Wes and claiming self defense while standing trial. Through a series of legal maneuvers, Rowan prolongs his freedom for over a year, all the while continuing to harass anyone in the town who he feels is a threat including police. After Rowan violates the orders of his appeal, the town decides to meet and figure out how to deal with Rowan.