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In 1848, Jon Riley (Tom Berenger) heads a group of Irish-born Roman Catholic soldiers in the U.S. Army. The group faces religious prejudice in the predominantly Protestant military. In the midst of the war against Mexico, Riley and some of his fellow soldiers go to a Catholic church and are cruelly punished as a result. Because of this, they defect to the Mexican Army, where they meet guerrilla leader Cortina (Joaquim de Almeida), with whom they forge an unlikely bond.