Two Navy lifers are assigned to escort a dishonorably discharged
sailor to the brig, but not before showing him the time of his life.
The Last Detail (1973)
Directed by Hal Ashby
Written by Robert Towne
Starring Jack Nicholson, Randy Quaid, Otis Young,
Clifton James, Carol Kane, Michael Moriarty
Based on the novel by Darryl Ponicsan
Oscar Nominations - Best Actor (Jack Nicholson),
Best Supporting Actor (Randy Quaid), Best Adapted Screenplay
Few people were as badass as Jack Nicholson during his 70s run. It started with Five Easy Pieces, then onto The Last Detail, Chinatown, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and a nice tasty epilogue with The Shining in 1980. What an actor's actor. and his performance as Buddusky in The Last Detail ranks right up there with his best work. It's one of those aimless movies that starts out focused and ends focused, but just goes to crazy places during the middle. Interesting strategy, and it certainly paid off with this film. It also features a rare dramatic performance from Randy Quaid, who even earned an Oscar nomination in the process. That's right. Cousin Eddie is an Oscar nominee. Who knew?
Navy lifers Buddusky and Mulhall (Young) are assigned shit detail, as they call it. They're to escort a sailor named Meadows (Quaid) to prison. Meadows is about to serve an eight-year sentence for stealing forty bucks from a church charity box. Turns out he's a kleptomaniac who ruined his own life. Feeling bad for the kid, who's only eighteen and hasn't done anything with his life yet, Buddusky and Mulhall decide to show Meadows the time of his life before he goes in the brig. Food, booze, women, and deep conversations about life. Ultimately, Meadows does try to run and Buddusky beats the shit out of him before handing him off to prison, but the journey there was entertaining and reflective.
The Last Detail is a bit of a stereotypical guy movie, but it never embraces toxic masculinity. Instead, it sort of admonishes the toxic traits that some men have to keep in check due to their upbringing. There's several moments where Buddusky tells Meadows to stop crying and "be a man." However, Buddusky is wrestling with his own issues of self-worth and rage the whole time. There's a lot going on here, and I think with repeated viewings, I'll like it even more.