Jacques (Brian Cox) is the crusty, misanthropic owner of a grungy dive located on an even grimier back street in New York. An epic chain smoker, he knows he has only a short time left. In the hospital after his fifth coronary, he meets the ultra-meek Lucas (Paul Dano), a homeless kid who has pretty much given up on life. Determined to keep his bar going, Jacques takes Lucas under his wing and schools him in the decidedly arcane rules he lives by.
Unfortunately for Lucas, Jacques's preferred pedagogical method consists of yelling, ranting and throwing stuff. Some of his inviolable rules include no new customers, no fraternizing with customers and, most importantly, no women. Their friendship is put to the test when the lost and distraught April (Isild Le Besco) shows up at the bar and Lucas insists they help her out.