In 1950s America, members of a chain gang are being transported through the South when their truck crashes. Two of the convicts, John "Joker" Jackson (Tony Curtis) and Noah Cullen (Sidney Poitier), who are chained together, find an opportunity to escape. Jackson is white, Cullen is black and, at first, the men appear to be opposites in every way. But as they flee across the country, the two form a deep bond. A female landowner leads Jackson to make a difficult decision about his own freedom.