Video Codec : MPEG4
Video Bitrate : 448 Kbps
Audio Codec : AAC
Audio Bitrate : 64 Kbps
The film begins in Mexico, where police officer Javier Rodriguez (Benicio Del Toro) and his partner, Manolo Sanchez (Jacob Vargas), stop a drug transport and arrest the couriers. Their arrest is interrupted by General Salazar (Tomás Milián), a high-ranking Mexican official, who decides to hire Rodriguez. Salazar instructs him to locate and apprehend Francisco Flores (Clifton Collins, Jr.), a notorious hit man for the Tijuana Cartel, headed by the Obregón brothers.
Meanwhile, Robert Wakefield (Douglas), a conservative Ohio judge, is appointed to head the President's Office of National Drug Control, taking on the title drug czar. Wakefield is warned by his predecessor and several influential politicians that the War on Drugs is unwinnable. Unbeknownst to Wakefield, his honors student daughter, Caroline (Erika Christensen) has been using cocaine, and develops a drug addiction after her boyfriend Seth (Topher Grace) introduces her to freebase cocaine. Caroline and Seth are arrested when a fellow student overdoses on drugs at a party and they unsuccessfully try to dump him anonymously at a nearby hospital. Robert finds out that his wife Barbara (Amy Irving) has known about their daughter's involvement with drugs for over six months.
A third story is set in San Diego, where an undercover Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigation led by Montel Gordon (Don Cheadle) and Ray Castro (Luis Guzmán) leads to arrest of Eduardo Ruiz (Miguel Ferrer), a high-stakes dealer posing as a fisherman. Ruiz, who is hospitalized as the result of a gunshot wound from the arrest, decides to risk the dangerous road to immunity by giving up his boss: drug lord Carlos Ayala (Steven Bauer), the biggest distributor for the Obregón brothers in the United States. Ayala is indicted by a tough prosecutor, hand-selected by Wakefield in an attempt to send a message to the Mexican drug organizations.
Flores is tortured and eventually gives Salazar the names of several important members of the Obregón cartel, who are arrested in a large effort by police and army soldiers. Rodriguez and Salazar's efforts begin to cripple the Obregón brothers' cocaine outfit, but Rodriguez soon discovers Salazar is a pawn for the Juárez Cartel, the rival of the Obregón brothers. The entire Mexican anti-drug campaign is a fraud, as Salazar is wiping out one cartel not per his duty, but because he has aligned himself with another cartel for profit.
Wakefield realizes his daughter is a drug addict and finds himself caught between his demanding new position and his worrisome family life. When he heads to Mexico, he is encouraged by the successful efforts of Salazar in hurting the Obregón brothers. When he returns to Ohio, Robert learns his efforts to see Caroline rehabilitated have failed and she escaped into the city of Cincinnati, where no one knows her location. Secretly, she's forced to prostitute herself to a drug dealer, and rob her parents to procure money for drugs.