In this adaptation of the novel by Joseph Conrad, Mr. Verloc (Bob Hoskins) runs a shabby corner shop in London that serves as a front for his more profitable sideline, selling pornography. However, selling sex photos is not Verloc's main order of business; he is a member of an anarchist organization, and he holds meetings in his apartment where he and his fellows plot the violent overthrow of the government. Verloc does not actually share the beliefs of his fellows -- he is in fact a double agent working with the Russians to sabotage the actions of revolutionary exiles while passing information about the anarchists along to Police Inspector Heat (Jim Broadbent). Verloc is married to Winnie (Patricia Arquette), a pretty but dour young woman who doesn't care for her husband and has married only in hopes that she would be able to afford a decent home for her brother Stevie (Christian Bale), who is mentally retarded. Inspector Heat informs Verloc that the anarchists must commit some sort of major violent action soon if the police are ever going to put any of them behind bars, so Verloc persuades the Professor (Robin Williams) to help him plant some bombs, which leads to tragedy for everyone involved. Robin Williams appears unbilled in The Secret Agent; in some listings, his role is credited to George Spelvin.
by Mark Deming synopsis