Just because Humphrey Bogart had been promoted to the A-list by way of The Maltese Falcon (1941), that didn't mean that he was completely free of such minor potboilers as The Big Shot. Bogart stars as mob leader Duke Berne, a three-time loser who tries in vain to reorganize his old gang upon being sprung from prison. Falling in love with Lorna Fleming (Irene Manning), the wife of crooked attorney Martin Fleming (Stanley Ridges), Berne ends up back behind bars for life, thanks to the vengeful Fleming's courtroom chicanery. Escaping during a prison variety show (dominated by Chick Chandler as an incarcerated blackface comedian), Berne makes a beeline for Lorna, who deserted the duplicitous Fleming when the latter railroaded an innocent young man into jail. Hoping to find happiness in a remote mountain hideaway, Berne ultimately realizes that he's no good for Lorna and spends the rest of the picture atoning for past sins.