French director Jean-Luc Godard's film is set is set in a Paris hotel. A zealous amateur investigator (Jean-Pierre Leaud) is trying to solve a two-year-old murder; an airline pilot (Claude Brasseur) and his promiscuous wife (Nathalie Haye) are negotiating with a boxer's manager (Johnny Hallyday) to get back the large sum of money he owes them; and a Mafia boss (Alain Cuny) is a menacing presence to everyone on the scene.

Those not familiar with Godard's jumpy story lines, intrusive use of classical music blasts, and offbeat imagery are sure to find Detective an unsettling experience. But long-time Godard fans will recognize his familiar obsession: the difficulty in determining "the truth" of anything, the constant misunderstandings between men and women, the chaos of urban life, and the media's impact on everything from sports to sex. The film can be interpreted as a witty commentary on film noir. Godard's own on-screen tribute is to John Cassavetes, Edgar G. Ulmer, and Clint Eastwood.