In Venice, Italy, retired safecracker John Bridger (Donald Sutherland) calls his daughter Stella Bridger (Charlize Theron) and tells her that he is participating in what will be his final heist. John then meets up with Charlie Croker (Mark Wahlberg) before setting the heist into motion. Their team consists of themselves and four others: Steve (Edward Norton) is the "inside man", Handsome Rob (Jason Statham) is a getaway driver, Left Ear (Mos Def) is an explosives expert, and Lyle, who later demands the handle "Napster" (Seth Green), is a technical expert. The heist is a success, but Steve betrays them all by taking the gold for himself; he also kills John Bridger and leaves the rest of the team for dead.
A year later back in the United States, Stella is using her safecracking expertise to break into vaults as an assistant to law enforcement personnel. The team has tracked Steve down, and Charlie recruits Stella to participate with the team in stealing the gold from Steve since she has the required skill and motivation. The team travels to Los Angeles, California to begin their surveillance of Steve's house and plan the heist. Meanwhile, Steve attempts to sell his gold through a money launderer, but kills him when the launderer begins asking questions about the source of the gold. However, the money launderer is a cousin of a local Ukrainian gangster, who subsequently seeks vengeance for his cousin's murder. The team's initial plan is to have Steve stood up on a date with Stella—who posed as a cable repair woman to get into Steve's house and locate his safe—while the team would break into Steve's house, load the gold into three Mini Coopers modified by Rob's mechanic friend Wrench (Franky G), and use hacked traffic lights to make their escape. However, Charlie is forced to call it off because of a local party, which would witness the heist's execution. To maintain her cover, Stella goes on the date with Steve, but he figures out her real identity. Charlie then confronts Steve and promises that he will take back the stolen gold.
Now aware that Charlie and his team are alive, Steve makes preparations to move the gold. He obtains three armored trucks and a helicopter from which to monitor the trucks' transit. To counter the shell game, Charlie uses his control over the Los Angeles traffic system to isolate the one truck containing the gold, which Lyle manages to find, and gridlocks the entire city. The team then steals the gold from the truck and escape in their trio of Mini Coopers. Steve and his hired security guards pursue them through Los Angeles, and the team manages to lose them all, except Steve. He follows Charlie, but falls into a trap: Charlie has already convinced the Ukrainian that Steve is the man they want, and Charlie gives the Ukrainian a portion of the stolen gold. Steve is taken away by the gangster, and the team split up the remaining gold and all go their separate ways.