Amoral Attorney: Bob Grimes (Dean Stockwell) doesn't particularly care that Masters is a criminal and argues that he's just doing the job someone else would; when he helps the cops later on, he's solely looking out for his own neck and his own wallet. Until it's revealed that he was trying to manipulate Vukovich on Masters' behalf the whole time.
Crapsack World: Let's just say Friedkin's Los Angeles is not a sunny one.
Dead Sidekick: Jimmy Hart (Michael Green), embodies this trope; because he's getting too old for this, he decides to retire to spend more time fishing; two days before retirement, he bites the bullet.
Downer Ending: AndHOW.Chance dies during the sting, causing Vukovich to have a mental breakdown and kill Masters, but not before the latter destroyed all the evidence of his crimes by torching his downtown warehouse. Not only that, Vukovich essentially becomes the new Chance, and makes Ruth his bitch. If you enjoyed how the ending of the film turns out, go seek psychiatric help, now.
Down LA Drain: The car chase includes a section where Chance and Vukovich are pursued through the L.A. storm drains.
Friend or Foe: Thomas Ling, the undercover FBI man is actually shot by his fellow agents. They've parked their vehicle on an overpass and are shooting at the robbers with an Armalite rifle when another vehicle crashes into theirs. A startled agent clutches at the rifleman's shoulder and the weapon discharges, with the bullet killing Ling himself.
Indecisive Deconstruction: The whole point about someone being a police maverick eventually gets deconstructed, as Chance's rule-breaking has serious, negative consequences: His withholding of information from his superiors makes them unwilling to help him; the convict he manages to bully the DA into releasing beats him up and escapes, and his plan to get the buy money for the sting goes horribly, horribly wrong. On the other hand, Chance does recapture Cody, and the sting does go down; furthermore, the movie ends with Vukovich becoming the new maverick cop, to triumphant Wang Chung music.
Leeroy Jenkins: Chance. He dives headfirst into any kind of dangerous situation, both on and off the job. According to his first partner, he should learn to take it easy every now and then, otherwise he won't live to see retirement. And... he doesn't in the end.
Meaningful Echo: When Chance delivers the down payment money, Masters checks one of the bills for authenticity, then purrs "You're beautiful." Later, when Chance and Vukovich meet with Masters to pick up the actual funny money, Chance repeats both the bill-check and Masters' line - before initiating the arrest.
Mutual Kill: Masters' henchman, Jack and Chance himself at the film's near end.
Name's the Same: Modern-day viewers see "Robert Downey" in the credits and wonder why they don't spot Tony Stark - when the Downey in question is his dad.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Pretty much every one of Chance's actions during the investigation results in this, especially when he accidentally gets an undercover FBI agent killed while sticking him up to get the money for his sting operation.
Off on a Technicality: Grimes mentions that he got someone off because he argued that a search warrant which imprecisely described the color of a house was invalid.
Rabid Cop: Chance is a violent cop who's brash with authority figures, doesn't like it when the rules get in the way of his plans, takes evidence without following protocol and, oh yes, uses blackmail and armed robbery to further his investigation. All in the name of justice, mind you.
Chance: I'm gonna bag Masters, and I don't give a shit how I do it.
Retirony: Jimmy Hart himself ends up getting killed by Jack and Masters, while investigating their warehouse.
Sociopathic Hero: By the mid-point Chance has been established as one, engineering a robbery to get the money Masters asked, but even before that, he casually mistreats his girlfriend/informant Ruth, and he says he'd immediately get her back in jail should she ever stop being his CI. At one point, he even rapes her while giggling like a kid.
Throw It In: When Chance was slamming the briefcase against the pillar, it wasn't supposed to break open. When it did, and the phone book to simulate its weight in money sprung free, Petersen continued to roll with it.
Chance: That's real funny. *hurls phone book at agent*
A Tragedy of Impulsiveness: One of the scenes in the second half of the movie is this. One of the two fellow agents who were trying to rescue Ling, was shooting at Chance and Vukovich, the robbers, only for him to get startled when another vehicle crashes into theirs. The rifleman's weapon then discharges, killing the victim of the robbery himself.
Understatement: The car chase ends with a radio report stating that there's a "minor tie-up" on the freeway.