In 1895, a young immigrant couple is Ellis Island into Manhattan because they have Tuberculosis. When their infant son is not allowed entry to the country without them, the couple place him in a model sailboat named "City of Justice," in which the baby floats to the New York City shoreline. In 1916, the baby boy has grown up to become Peter Lake (Colin Farrell), a thief raised by a supernatural demon posing as the gangster Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe). Peter is marked for death when he decides to leave Pearly's gang. In a confrontation, he is rescued by a mysterious (winged at times) white horse, his guardian angel.