Brandt Ruger (Gene Hackman) is a rich cattle rancher. He has a bad relationship with his wife, Melissa (Candice Bergen), whom he treats like a possession. While Brandt is away from home on a hunting trip, Frank Calder (Oliver Reed), a brazen outlaw, kidnaps Melissa and holds her for ransom. Frank, however, treats Melissa better than her own husband does, and before long she begins to develop feelings for him. When Brandt returns, he's enraged and vows to take violent revenge against Frank.