Max Cady, condamné à quatorze années de prison pour viol et voie de fait sur une mineure, est à nouveau libre. Avec détermination et rigueur, il entreprend de se venger de l'avocat Sam Bowden, qu'il estime responsable de son incarcération.
Sam Bowden is a small-town corporate attorney. Max Cady is a tattooed, cigar-smoking, bible-quoting, psychotic rapist. What do they have in common? Fourteen years, ago Sam was a public defender assigned to Max Cady's rape trial, and he made a serious error: he hid a document from his illiterate client that could have gotten him acquitted. Now, the cagey, bibliophile Cady has been released, and he intends to teach Sam Bowden and his family a thing or two about loss.