Two dirty cops kill an undercover officer by mistake and try to frame a homeless man for the crime. Their scheme becomes more complicated when it gets to court and the man turns out be a famous missing person.
- The Alibi: Largely Played for Laughs with the actual criminals the two detectives decide to frame before settling on Joe. Their interrogations quickly reveal that One was in jail at the time of The murder, another was in the hospital with a knife wound and a third is able to Confess to a Lesser Crime.
- Confess to a Lesser Crime: A rare example where the person confessing did commit the actual crime. An earlier attempted Fall Guy (an actual criminal tricked into getting his prints on the murder weapon) reveals he was robbing a jewelry store and wipes his prints off the gun with a smirk, using his shirt, saying that 3-5 is better than 20 to life.
- Fall Guy: At the center of the film is a fall guy scheme that goes horribly wrong. Two crooked LA cops murder a criminal who turns out to be an undercover DEA officer, and to avoid their crimes from being exposed they try to pin it on a random homeless guy they picked up off the streets and get a prostitute who was working with them to identify him in a line-up. At first the subterfuge seems to work, as the man thinks he really did commit the murder and wants to take responsibility for his "actions". However, he is later revealed to be the missing member of a very wealthy family who used to personally provide medical aid in Africa as part of Doctors Without Borders, but had fallen into alcoholism and depresssion after the untimely death of his wife and daughter. As Tupac's character put it, they picked a saint to pin a murder on. It all ends up blowing up in their face, with the prostitute cracking on the witness stand and identifying her two accomplices after she's charged with perjury, the fall guy being acquitted when the DA drops the charges, the instigators turning on each other, and both of the two corrupt cops ending up dead for different reasons of their own doing.
- Floating Head Syndrome: The movie poster.
- It's All My Fault: Joe/McCall admits to hiss cell mate that he started drinking after losing his family because his wife caught him sleeping with a nurse took the kids and left only to get hit by a car (or maybe commit suicide By car) while driving away from the house.
- Karma Houdini: Dunner the arsonist, who goes free due to the stolen gun and despite his role in the Karmic Death below, did burn two people alive over a family squabble.
- Karmic Death: Detective Divinci ends up getting killed by Clyde David Dunner, a criminal whom he had previously arrested but walked free because Divinci switched the guns used as evidence to cover up his own complicity in an unrelated crime.
- The Killer Becomes the Killed: At the end, Divinci manages to get away with his crimes, including murdering an undercover police officer, trying to pin it on a random homeless person, and trying to kill one of his fellow conspirators who turned on him, by buying himself a transport out of town. He is then killed off by a vengeful drug dealer he tried (and failed, due to his own bumbling) to charge previously.
- Killer Cop: Detective Frank Divinci uses guns already tagged as evidence in other crimes to rob and kill drug dealers. Ironically, the one character he doesn't kill is his partner.
- Laser-Guided Karma: A positive example at the very end. After Cynthia reveals the truth about her accomplices framing William McCall for the murder they themselves committed, Divinci comes back to exact revenge on Cynthia for her betrayal. She's brought into the ER afterwards, where McCall is the head surgeon and is implied to save her life.
- Salt and Pepper: James Belushi and Tupac Shakur. Both corrupt cops, but Tupac's character is the more sensible of the two.
- Trapped by Gambling Debts: Detective Rodriguez is hounded by an Evil Debt Collector and his huge bodyguard because of outstanding gambling debts. When the crimes he committed with his partner are about to be exposed he attacks them in a moment of rage and is shot to death.