Wes Block (Clint Eastwood) is a police inspector in New Orleans who spends most of his days and nights trying to solve a series of murders of prostitutes. Having been deserted by his wife, Wes has custody of his two daughters and a houseful of stray dogs. His loneliness and own strange sexual needs lead him to take advantage of the erotica offered by some of the ladies of the night he interviews about the murders.

Tightrope is an eerie and suspenseful thriller written and directed very convincingly by Richard Tuggle. One of the experts whom Wes talks to about this difficult case tells him: "There's darkness inside all of us. Some act it out. Some try to control it. Most of us walk a tightrope between the two." When some of the prostitutes he has seen are murdered, Wes starts to wonder about his own dark demons. He begins to date Beryl (Genevieve Bujold), a self-possessed woman who runs a rape crisis center. Their relationship helps him take control of his weird libidinous urges and open up the tender side of his personality, which is revealed in a loving relationship with his daughters.

But the killer shadows Wes, eventually invading his home and attempting to murder Beryl in hers. The plot hurtles toward a scary finale. Clint Eastwood puts in one of the best performances of his career as the outwardly strong and inwardly tormented police officer. The storyline's intriguing blend of law and order, sin and sex, violence and sadomasochism makes it one of the best examples of film noir in the 80s.