Havana in 1958 is a place of savage beauty, with crime and violence bubbling underneath a dazzling surface of colour, Caribbean music and gorgeous sports cars. Cuba is about to explode into revolution but Havana continues to party like never before.
There are many undercurrents in the film which the storyline works through: the impending arrival of the new Cuban government; the collapse of the Batista regime; the significance and impact of American wealth, as represented by the casinos and the cars; the duplicity of the British, dealing in arms with Batista until the very end; and overall, the yearning of a people to be free.
Jonny Pepa is a young working class and poor Cuban who dreams of making it big like all the rich Americans who flood the casino where he works. He longs to be a racing driver and is in love with a beautiful Cuban, Angelica Romero, with whom he was close when they were younger and living in the poor part of Havana, but who now appears to associate with the American jet set who are associated with the Grand Prix. Jonny is unaware of her secret involvement in the July 26th movement and her loyalty to her new intellectual partner, Castro’s trusted lieutenant Sebastian Ortiz. Ortiz and his team, including Angelica, kidnap Fangio the night before the Grand Prix, creating a global media storm and a savage overnight backlash from Batista’s thugs. When he realises that the kidnappers have been compromised by the duplicitous English arms merchant Jim Drake, Jonny seeks the help of cynical American driver Rich Clayton to save the woman he loves.