Two professional hitmen track down Pete Lund, known as "The Swede" (Burt Lancaster)-a gas station attendant with a storied past. The Swede anticipates their arrival having made peace with paying what's due. Intrigued by the Swede's case, insurance investigator Jim Reardon (Edmond O'Brien) pursues unraveling the mystery against the orders of his boss, who considers the Swede's death as just another policy waiting to be rubber-stamped and paid. Weaving together loose threads of the Swede's life, Reardon uncovers a complex tale of treachery and crime linked to enigmatic femme fatale Kitty Collins (Ava Gardner) who may have lured him into a life of crime. Featuring Burt Lancaster in his film debut and Ava Gardner in the role that launched her career, and based on the 1927 short story by Ernest Hemingway.