Many of the movie's Harlem street scenes feature modern spray-painted graffiti tags, and some much larger "pieces," that would not have existed in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It appears to be a common problem for movie producers filming period pieces.
Moses Jones has a prominent Wu Tang Clan tattoo on his left upper arm. It's especially visible in the first briefing scene of the newly-formed narcotics unit. Upon close examination, "RZA" is set inside the Wu Tang Clan logo.
In 1972, Frank Lucas confronts his nephew, the baseball player, who missed a meeting Lucas set up with Billy Martin and the New York Yankees. Martin managed the Detroit Tigers from 1971 to 1973; he didn't manage the Yankees until 1975.
In an early scene, Frank is in his apartment, recording some figures in a notebook. He reaches over to the table and punches some numbers on a slim electronic calculator, a type that wasn't available until a decade later.
When the bad guys are running the screws out of the false-bottom coffins, the sound effect used matches a modern, battery powered (sounds like an 18 volt or 14.4) cordless drill with an electric brake. Cordless power tools were introduced by the Apollo Moon Program and no battery-powered drill available to industry was developed until decades later.
Sometime around 1970, Richie Roberts receives a letter saying that he has been admitted to the New Jersey bar. It mentions passing the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination. California was first state to introduce a Professional Responsibility Examination, in 1975. The Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination, based on California's exam, was introduced in 1980.
In the Smalls scene, the camera looks up at the funk band singer who appears on stage after Joe Louis. A Martin Atomic 3000 strobe is on the ceiling, with a DMX cable connected. DMX was created in 1986; Martin introduced the Atomic in 2001.
The C-130 in the movie is actually a C-130A, with different pylon tanks and 3-bladed props. During Vietnam, C-130's were painted in a camouflage pattern. The uniform gray paint scheme was introduced in the late 1980's.
When Detective Roberts is driving a commandeered taxi and following a drug dealer with $20,000 bait money, Roberts drives the wrong way through some oncoming traffic before catching up to the car he's following. As he turns a corner, three modern cars are parked on the left hand side, including a silver SUV, a blue sedan, and a gold station wagon.
Frank is introduced Mr. Svbota at a cocktail party. Frank asks what he can get him, and Mr. Svbota responds "How about a left-hander Charlie says is your nephew." Later in the movie, Stevie Lucas is playing baseball in Frank's backyard, and throwing right-handed.
When Detective Richie Roberts chases a man in an apartment complex, he pumps his shotgun and points it at a woman's face. After realizing his mistake, he resumes his pursuit and pumps the shotgun again, in a man's face, without firing a round.
Near the end of the movie, after Frank's initial court appearance, he and Richie are alone in a room talking. If you watch closely, the positions of the coffee stirrers in the cups change several times. From pointing in the same direction to different, then back again.
When Richie meets his friend, when the kids are playing pool, they do a bad break and only move two balls, but, later in the same scene, Richie goes over and starts collecting up the pool balls, which are suddenly scattered.
When Roberts and his partner find money in the trunk of a car, a caption at the beginning says "New Jersey." The view at the beginning is the Williamsburg Bridge, which connects Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to Manhattan's Lower East Side.
When Richie chases the car over the George Washington Bridge, the film states that Richie is going from New Jersey to Manhattan, where he doesn't have jurisdiction. He begins to tail the suspect on the Manhattan side of the George Washington Bridge going into New Jersey, then winds back up in New York.
In the extended version, Richie Roberts' team listen to a wiretap they have placed on a phone in a business that is supposed to be in New Jersey. The scene was actually filmed on West 125th Street, between Broadway and Riverside Drive in Harlem. Prominent is "The Cotton Club," which opened at that location in 1978, named after the legendary Harlem club of the 1920s and 30s, which was located at 142nd Street and Lenox Avenue.
While Frank's cousin is wearing a wire, he stands at a distance while Frank is on the phone. In the next scene, when the tape is played for the police, both sides of the phone conversation can be heard, which would be impossible from an external microphone at a distance.
When Frank first calls his cousin in Bangkok, he tells the operator that Thailand's country code is 376. Later, as the war is ending, he gives the operator the country code 367. Thailand's actual country code is 66.
When the police are searching the plane, they are removing the screws from the deck plate with hand crank screwdrivers. In one shot the screws are being driven counter-clockwise. In the next, clockwise.
A red 1970 JVC Video-sphere TV set is seen in the discount electronics store at the beginning of the film behind Bumpy Johnson on his right side when he sits down just before he dies. This part of the film is set in 1968, two years before this model TV hit the market.
In the film, Richie Roberts is both the lead detective and the prosecutor in the case against Frank Lucas. That would not be allowed in any American courtroom; Roberts could never act as an attorney in the same case where he is a potential witness.
The closing captions say Frank Lucas was incarcerated from 1976 to 1991. He was paroled in 1981, and remained free for three years. In 1984, he was convicted of parole violations and drug offenses, and went back to prison until he was released in 1991.
In the very first scene, when Frank Lucas shoots a man who he just set on fire, his .45 pistol jams with a "stove pipe" type jam, but he continues shooting. The audio track includes reports, and flame is coming out of the pistol.