The movie is dedicated to the memory of Bruce Ingram, a camera operator who died during the filming of one of the car chases.
Packard Walsh (Nick Cassavetes) is the ruthless leader of a criminal gang that steals the cars of people they intimidate into racing. The entire town fears him, including Keri Johnson (Sherilyn Fenn), whom he sees as his own property. However, Keri hates Packard and stays with him out of fear so that he will not kill her. The town knows that Packard murdered James "Jamie" Hankins (Christopher Bradley), Keri's former boyfriend, but the police cannot convict him of the murder due to the absence of Jamie's body. Packard controls the town with his evil power.
As Packard organizes the races in the outskirts of the town, his tyrannical control of the races is suddenly at risk when a black Dodge M4S Turbo Interceptor called "The Wraith" unexpectedly arrives in town. The driver of this car is covered from head to toe in a racing helmet and black body armor that conceals his identity. The armor is adorned with metal braces resembling those worn by victims recovering from severe physical trauma. He starts to appear at Packard's races, where he kills gang members, starting with Oggie Fisher (Griffin O'Neal), then Minty (Chris Nash), and finally Skank (David Sherrill) and Gutterboy (Jamie Bozian). Sheriff Loomis (Randy Quaid) tries to investigate the Turbo Interceptor, but the unidentified driver is impossible to find, showing up only at races organized by Packard.
Meanwhile, a young visitor named Jacob "Jake" Kesey (Charlie Sheen) has shown up on his Honda XL350R Enduro bike to stay in town for a while. He quickly befriends both Keri and Jamie's brother William "Billy" Hankins (Matthew Barry), who works at Big Kay's, the local burger shack. Jake has multiple scars around his neck and body, which he keeps a secret. Keri becomes interested in him.
As Packard's gang grows smaller with each death, Rughead (Clint Howard), the gang's tech-geek who organizes races and who alone, among them, did not participate in Jamie's murder, realizes that the gang is being targeted because of the murder and quits the gang in fear of his life. Keri herself is suspicious of who Jake is. When she confronts him over this, he tells her to ask Packard, explaining that Packard knows why Jake is here. Jake says that he has come a long way for Keri and his time is just about over.
Packard, now the last member of his disbanded gang, confronts Keri at Big Kay's over her association with Jake and forces her to leave with him. When Billy attempts to intervene, Packard beats him and kidnaps Keri, telling her that they will flee to California. When she confronts him with the knowledge that it was he who murdered Jamie, he tells her that she belongs to him. As he stops the car and pulls a switchblade on her, the Turbo Interceptor confronts them and challenges Packard to a race. As with the others, Packard dies in a fiery explosion. No members of Packard's gang are left alive except Rughead, and a frustrated Sheriff Loomis abandons both the investigation and the pursuit of the Turbo Interceptor.
As Keri arrives home that night, the Turbo Interceptor pulls up to the curb and a driver emerge. He transforms into Jake, and reveals his true identity as Jamie. They hug, and he tells Keri that it was the closest he could come to what he once was, and they were meant to be together. He then tells Keri to wait for him, because he has something to do.
Jake goes to Big Kay's, accidentally scaring Billy. He calms Billy down and gives him the keys to the Turbo Interceptor, the only one of its kind, telling him that his work here is finished, and that "the instructions are in the glove compartment." Billy asks: "Who are you, bro?" To this, Jake replies: "You said it, Billy." As Jake rides off on his dirt bike, Billy comes to the grief-stricken realization that Jake is, in fact, his older brother Jamie.
Jake picks up Keri, who was being watched by Sheriff Loomis, and together they ride off into the night on his dirt bike.
- Charlie Sheen as Jake Kesey / The Wraith
- Matthew Barry as William "Billy" Hankins
- Sherilyn Fenn as Keri Johnson
- Randy Quaid as Sheriff Loomis
- Clint Howard as Rughead
- Nick Cassavetes as Packard Walsh
- David Sherrill as Skank
- Jamie Bozian as Gutterboy
- Griffin O'Neal as Oggie Fisher
- Chris Nash as Minty
- Christopher Bradley as James "Jamie" Hankins
The score was composed and performed by Michael Hoenig and J. Peter Robinson, two famous synth composers of movie and TV serie Soundtracks. The soundtrack was recorded by Rick Hart and entirely played on a NED Synclavier II and has been long unreleased.
Many famous 1980's hits in rock music have been included in this soundtrack:
- Tim Feehan – "Where's the Fire"
- Ozzy Osbourne – "Secret Loser"
- Stan Bush – "Hearts vs. Heads"
- Ian Hunter – "Wake Up Call"
- Mötley Crüe – "Smokin' in the Boys Room"
- Robert Palmer – "Addicted to Love"
- Nick Gilder – "Scream of Angels"
- Lion – "Power Love"
- Honeymoon Suite – "Those Were the Days"
- Lion – "Never Surrender"
- Bonnie Tyler – "Matter of the Heart"
- LaMarca – "Hold on Blue Eyes"
- Billy Idol – "Rebel Yell"
- Jill Michaels – "Young Love, Hot Love"
- James House – "Bad Mistake"
The movie was released on VHS by Lightning Video and on LaserDisc by Image Entertainment in 1987. In 2003, the movie was released on DVD by Platinum Disc Corporation (now Echo Bridge Home Entertainment). In spite of having no special features and only being shown in pan and scan, there is some footage that was missing from the original VHS and LaserDisc releases. LionsGate released a special edition DVD on March 2, 2010.[