Review: The Last Detail (1973)

The Last Detail (1973)

Directed by: Hal Ashby | 100 minutes | comedy, drama | Actors: Jack Nicholson, Otis Young, Randy Quaid, Clifton James, Carol Kane, Michael Moriarty, Luana Anders, Kathleen Miller, Nancy Allen, Gerry Salsberg, Don McGovern, Pat Hamilton, Michael Chapman, Jim Henshaw, Derek McGrath, Gilda Radner, Jim Horn, John Castellano

From the poster of ‘The Last Detail’ (1973), Jack Nicholson, bare-chested, tattooed, moustache, cigar and sailor’s hat, looks at us defiantly. A bit strange movie poster; you would think it was a homoerotic movie. Depending on how you look at it, there’s little sensuous about this grim and bleak comedy drama.

Two Marines, Billy ‘Badass’ Buddusky (Jack Nicholson) and Richard ‘Mule’ Mulhall (Otis Young), have to face rookie Larry Meadows (Randy Quaid), who has been sentenced to eight years in prison for stealing $40 from their Norfolk base. transfer to Portsmouth Naval Prison in Maine. They take pity on the rookie and decide not to rush their assignment.

It is not only the last days of freedom for the convict, but also for Badass and Mule it is a chance to escape their self-imposed ‘captivity’ in military service. They drink themselves in a tiny hotel room, visit a prostitute and have a rough fight with the boys from the army. Badass hopes to give Larry the time of his life, but for the humble and inexperienced Larry it is only now that it becomes clear what he will have to miss in the coming years.

The role of Billy “Badass” Buddusky is one of those where you can’t imagine anyone other than Jack Nicholson playing it. Buddusky is a smart asshole, a cranky joker, and a soft-spoken and psychopath at the same time. A badass with manic-depressive streaks. In short, a complex role that requires a good dose of charisma in addition to acting talent. Nicholson has both and this is one of his first roles where he manages to use them in proper proportion.

It is undoubtedly one of his best but least known roles. Maybe that’s because director Hal Ashby wanted to show real people in ‘The Last Detail’ in a raw, gloomy world stripped of all Hollywood frills. He succeeded brilliantly in that, it’s just a shame that he didn’t attract a lot of audience with it.

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