During Hurricane Katrina, a convict is trapped in a jail cell as the water levels rise. Terrence McDonagh (Nicholas Cage) and his partner, Stevie Pruit (Val Kilmer) are raiding an officer’s locker to recover some paper work on the convict left behind. They find the convict neck deep in water and trying to float with a broken leg. Stevie and Terrence start to bet on how long it would take for the convict to drown. The convict begs for help and while Stevie is willing to leave him and let him drown, Terrence dives into the water to save him.
A few weeks later, Terrence is at the doctor’s office. The doctor tells him that Terrence will most likely be in pain for the rest of his life. He prescribes Terrence some Vicodin to deal with the back pain. The next day, he is promoted to lieutenant for his actions during Hurricane Katrina.
Six Months Later - Terrence is driving to a crime scene. Before he goes into the building, he takes a hit of coke and then goes into the crime scene. A family of illegal immigrants from Africa was executed in a gangland hit. Stevie tells Terrence that he doesn’t want to see the bodies, but Terrence does it anyway. He takes control of the scene and is clearly affect by seeing the dead children in their bedroom.
Back at the station, the Chief hands out orders to his cops concerning the case. He puts Terrence in charge, but pulls him aside to ask him if he’s up for it. He makes it clear that if Terrence needs help and doesn’t ask the Chief now, he will be in big trouble when the time comes. Terrence shrugs it off and goes on patrol.
Terrence goes to see his prostitute girlfriend, Frankie (Eva Mendez). They do some coke together and make plans to meet up later. Terrence goes to get his prescription of Vicodin refilled when he gets a call about an apprehended suspect. He tells Stevie’s new partner not to let Stevie interrogate the suspect. He flips at the pharmacist, who has wasted the last hour talking to her friend on the phone. He barges in, takes his meds, leaves her 40 dollars and walks out.
He arrives at the station and kicks Stevie off the interrogation. Terrence then goes in and promises to remove the suspect’s pot possession from the file in order to get information about the murders. Terrence learns that the murders were done at the behest of a drug dealer known as Big Fate. Terrence makes sure the suspect’s case file vanishes and then goes to take a nap. While sleeping, the officer he bribed into stealing drugs from the evidence locker visits and tells Terrence that he won’t be able to steal from the evidence locker since the force has installed new cameras and are conducting an inventory check. In need of a fix, Terrence drives outside of clubs to score drugs. He spots a couple leaving a club and tries to arrest them. The girl offers her $60,000 broach as a bribe, but Terrence asks for a hit. She gives him a hit and soon the two of them are having sex. Her boyfriend tries to run away but Terrence fires his gun in the air and tells him to watch.
After he’s done, Terrence realizes that he did a hit of heroin instead of coke. He goes to Frankie and gets some coke. She’s with a customer, so Terrence shakes him down, steals his money and cocaine and then sends him on his way.
The next day, Terrence goes to the funeral of the African immigrants. Their aunt tearfully begs Terrence to bring their killer to justice. She tells Terrence that she didn’t go over to their house that morning because they had ordered a delivery from the market and she needed to run an errand. Terrence goes to the shop and asks about their delivery system. He finds out that one hasn’t shown up in a few days and goes to find his grandmother, a hospice nurse at an old folk’s home. He pays her a visit and the delivery boy shows up and tells Terrence that he witnessed the execution while hiding in a closet. Terrence brings him to the station to get his statement.
Terrence goes to check out the home of a new suspect who was tied to Big Fate. He finds the suspect and drags him to the station.
Terrence goes to his bookie. Terrence owes him $3,000. Terrence asks for some drugs and offers to help his bookie’s daughter and keep her license from getting suspended. Terrence goes to try and prevent the license from getting suspended by going to the head officer. The head officer denies him and tells him no. A former fling of Terrence’s is also working on the patrol of the head officer. The two of them make a date for that night. However, instead of having sex, Terrence falls asleep after asking her to score him some drugs from the evidence locker.
Terrence goes back to his bookie and tells him that he can’t help his daughter. The bookie gets pissed and refuses to let Terrence make any more bets, insisting that Terrence pay him $5,000 to cover his debts. Terrence goes back to the precinct to start working on the case, and does some coke. He begins to hallucinate about iguanas as Terrence, Stevie and some other cops raid a suspect’s house. They find the suspect hiding in the closet and bring him in. Terrence smokes a joint before arresting him. Terrence and his partner interrogate the suspect but the suspect refers to Terrence’s smoking. Terrence’s boss comes in to prevent him from further interrogation because Big Fate (Xzibit) and his attorney have come in to face the charges.
Terrence visits his father, who is a recovering alcoholic. His wife is trashed and complaining about her husband’s condition but Terrence’s father is sober and going to meetings. Terrence agrees to watch his father’s dog while his father continues to recover. He brings the dog to Frankie so she can look after it. Back at the office, Terrence finds out that Big Fate wants the list of witnesses, which would expose the delivery boy and potentially get him killed. Terrence offers to look after the kid. He drives out to Frankie with the boy, doing coke as he does it. Terrence finds a customer beating Frankie and threatens to castrate him if the man goes near Frankie again. The man mentions he has connections and tells Terrence that he’s fucked himself nicely. Terrence takes the boy and Frankie to the Casino next door and goes off to check on his latest gambling investment. He finds himself down and returns to Frankie only to find out the boy is gone.
Terrence spends the next three days looking for the boy nonstop. He goes to the boy’s grandmother and tortures the old lady the grandmother is looking after in order to find out that the boy was shipped to England by the old lady’s relatives so that he could be safe from harm. Once Terrence returns to the police station, he finds that there is an official complaint against him. He visits Frankie, only to find out that the man he kicked out of the hotel previously has called in a favor and sent a mob enforcer to deal with Terrence and Frankie. Terrence has two days to come up with $ 50K or they will kill him and Frankie. He borrows $10,000 from Frankie and takes her to his father’s house. He asks his father to take care of her but he says that he can barely take care of himself. Frankie and Terrence’s stepmother get into an argument and end up fighting. Terrence takes Frankie to the shed and tells her about his youth. His mouth bought him a metal detector before he died and he found an old silver spoon from the Civil War, but lost it. He asks her to find it while he goes to settle the matter with the mob.
Terrence is reassigned to desk duty, and goes over to the evidence. He pretends to work in the department and takes cocaine off of an officer who confiscated it and leaves the building. He goes to a restaurant where Big Fate is having dinner. Terrence pulls him aside and offers Fate protection. He offers to tell Fate when it is safe to do business in exchange for 15K per shipment.
He goes to his father’s house and finds out that Frankie is going to check into rehab since Terrence’s father has inspired her and Terrence’s stepmother’s drunkenness has scared her. Terrence brings Fate information on a bust, which Fate confirms is legit. Fate dumps a body in a swamp and then drives Terrence to his car. Terrence sees a famous football player purchasing cocaine down the street and busts him. He tells the player that he can either be arrested or not play in his team’s next game. The player agrees to sit the next game out and Terrence lets him off.
Terrence and Fate go out and manage a shipment. Terrence is given $15K and goes to his bookie and pays off his debt and bets on the player’s opposing team. He is being tailed by the Mob Enforcer and his goons and is followed to Fate’s. Fate doesn’t trust Terrence and has a shotgun pointed at Terrence’s seat from under the desk. Terrence and Fate smoke crack together and, when Fate admits to the murders of the African Immigrants, Terrence gives Fate a “lucky crack pipe” to smoke on. Fate smokes the pipe when the Enforcer arrives. The Enforcer takes Terrence’s cocaine and is about to take Big Fate’s when Big Fate and his men kill the Enforcer and his henchmen in order to keep their coke.
Terrence talks to his junior partner and tells him to search the scene of the murders and look for a “crack pipe.” Terrence hid the crack pipe Fate smoked under a table, which puts Fate at the scene of the crime thanks to the DNA in his saliva. Terrence wins the bet on the football game and the complaint against him is withdrawn. The man from the hotel room comes by and tries to smooth things over. The license issue with Terrence’s bookie’s daughter is also resolved and everything goes well for Terrence.
Terrence leads the raid on Big Fate’s house. Terrence and Stevie disarm Big Fate and send the cops after his men. When they are alone in the room, Stevie tells Terrence to shoot Big Fate, steal his cocaine, and say he went for the gun on the desk. Terrence says no, and cuffs Big Fate, placing him under arrest. He visits Frankie in rehab and gives her the spoon from his shed, which he found.
One Year Later: Terrence is promoted to the rank of Captain for the successful capture and prosecution of Big Fate. Frankie and Terrence are expecting a child together and Terrence’s parents and Frankie have been sober for a year. Terrence also appears to be sober, but on duty later that night he is seen patrolling clubs and stealing drugs from clubbers. He goes to a hotel room to snort cocaine. A room service deliveryman drops off some food and sees him. He recognizes him as the cop who saved him from the flooding jail cell. The waiter asks if he is OK and Terrence replies that “[he] has bad days.” The waiter takes him to the aquarium and offers to get him help. The movie ends with Terrence laughing at the fishes swimming above him.
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