The hook in Walter Hill's mythic retelling of the James-Younger outlaw legend is in the casting; the James, Younger, Miller, and Ford Brothers are played by a string of acting brothers, the Keachs, the Carradines, the Quaids and the Guests. The film begins as outlaws are robbing a bank.
After the robbery, Ed Miller (Dennis Quaid) finds himself kicked out of the gang for needlessly killing a man during the robbery. Jesse James (James Keach) hands over Ed's share of the money and tells him to leave, a feeling held mutually by Ed's brother Clell (Randy Quaid). After the killing the gang decides to split up for awhile.
The James boys return to their wives and farms, while Cole Younger (David Carradine) travels to Texas with his prostitute girlfriend Belle Starr (Pamela Reed). After the brief respite, the gang reunites to rob a well-stocked bank in Northfield, Minnesota. The robbery turns out disastrously, with most of the gang either wounded or dying.
The James boys are the only ones not seriously hurt, and they leave the rest of the gang behind, escaping while they can. After the James boys leave, the remnants of the gang are captured. But trailing the Jameses is a relentless posse.