Los Angeles Police Department’s Officer Jake Hoyt is assigned for an evaluation headed by Detective Alonzo Harris, a decorated narcotics officer. Alonzo is known to be a corrupt cop to several other narcotics officers who are also in on the take. Alonzo and Jake begin the day by catching some college kids buying cannabis. Confiscating the drugs from the kids, Alonzo tells Jake to smoke it. Jake refuses initially, but complies when Alonzo threatens him at gunpoint.
Alonzo states that refusing like this while on the streets would easily get him killed. He tells Hoyt shortly thereafter that the marijuana was laced and he has actually consumed PCP. After paying a visit to Roger, an ex-cop turned drug dealer, Jake notices a pair of addicts attempting to rape a teenage girl in an alley. Jake intervenes while Alonzo watches. After Alonzo scares them off, Jake finds the girl’s wallet on the ground and retrieves it.
Later in the day, Alonzo and Jake apprehend a dealer named Blue who uses a wheelchair. They find crack rocks and a loaded handgun on him. Rather than go to jail, Blue informs on his associate Kevin “Sandman” Miller, who is in prison. Using a fake search warrant, Alonzo steals $40,000 from Sandman’s home. Sandman’s wife realizes the theft and calls out to nearby “jackers” (gang members), who open fire on Alonzo and Jake as they flee.
At lunch, the two visit Alonzo’s mistress Sara and their young son. Afterwards, Alonzo meets with a trio of corrupt high-ranking police officials he refers to as the “Three Wise Men”. Aware that the Russian Mafia are looking for Alonzo, they suggest that he skip town. Alonzo insists he has control of the situation, and trades Sandman’s drug money for an official arrest warrant.
Using the warrant, Alonzo, Jake, and four other corrupt narcotics officers return to Roger’s house and seize $4 million from the premises. Alonzo shoots and kills Roger when Jake refuses to do so. Jake refuses to be a part of it, and when Alonzo threatens Jake for a second time, Jake seizes Alonzo’s shotgun, prompting a Mexican standoff with the other officers. Alonzo tells Jake that the LAPD will run a blood test on him which will identify the PCP-laced cannabis he smoked earlier, and mimics what the local news will say about Jake should he die in the standoff. Alonzo promises he can falsify this in exchange for his cooperation, then stages a scenario to get everyone off the hook while Jake reluctantly agrees.
Later that evening, Alonzo drives Jake to the home of Smiley, a member of Hillside Trece, to run an errand. Jake reluctantly plays poker with Smiley and his fellow gang members as he waits for Alonzo and Smiley reevaluates Alonzo’s situation. By midnight, Alonzo must pay $1 million to the Russians for killing one of their men in Las Vegas, or be killed himself.
Realizing that Alonzo abandoned him and has paid Smiley to kill him, Jake attempts to flee but is beaten and dragged to a bathtub to be executed. A gang member searches Jake for money before he is killed, and finds the wallet of the teenage girl, who happens to be Smiley’s cousin. After confirming Jake’s story of how he had saved her from being raped earlier that day, Smiley allows Jake to leave and returns his gun.
Jake returns to Sara’s apartment to arrest Alonzo, but a gunfight and chase ensue. Alonzo beats Jake and as he leaves to pay the Russians, Jake jumps on top of Alonzo’s car, causing an accident. Alonzo is subdued, while the entire neighborhood congregates to watch. In an attempt to get the crowd on his side, Alonzo offers money to whoever kills Jake, but nobody interferes, having grown tired of Alonzo’s corruption and arrogance.
As Alonzo reaches for a gun, Jake shoots him in the rear and takes the money, along with Alonzo’s badge. The neighborhood gang allows Jake to walk away with the money as an infuriated Alonzo watches, and Jake plans to submit it as evidence against Alonzo. Alonzo flees for his life to LAX, but he is ambushed and executed by the Russians. Jake returns home as the press reports on Alonzo’s death, which eerily mirrors how Alonzo pictured the news would portray Jake.