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The Last Detail (1973)

August 30, 2009

6/10 Seamen (had to do it)

Not that bad, but kinda disappointing all the same.

The Last Detail is about two navy men that are given orders to escort an eighteen-year-old navy man over to prison to serve out an eight-year sentence for unsuccessfully trying to steal forty bucks from a donation box. So during their five day trip, the two sailors book it off to Washington D.C. and New York City to show the kid the time of his life before he gets locked up for good.

Good, simple premise right there. Lots of male bonding, masculine grunting, wild debauchery and swearing abound to be had amongst three guys that pretty much spend all their time on a boat filled with dudes. And there’s two things in particular that make it worth watching:

1) The combo of Robert Towne’s script and Hal Ashby’s direction that makes you feel like your hanging out these guys as part of the gang instead of watching a group of actors recite their lines. And…

2) Jack Nicholson.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a movie where Nicholson didn’t look like this, but what a refreshing reminder it is to see him during his heyday. But who am I kidding, this is Jack Fucking Nicholson we’re talking about here. He’s always been the man and he always will be. His volatile role in The Last Detail is just one more badass performance he’s given in a career that’s continually proven that there’s only one Jack. Someone get that man another hot dog, he’s fuckin’ earned it.

A shockingly young Randy Quaid is also in this as the kid who’s getting locked up. He actually got nominated for an Oscar for this movie. It’s almost sad that he’s now remembered as Clark Griswold’s dumbass, redneck brother-in-law from the Vacation movies and as the ex-fighter pilot who got anally probed by aliens back in the sixties and thus saves Earth from total destruction as a form of kamikaze payback in Independence Day, but then again, those are two pretty sweet roles. Actually, I take it back. That’s not sad at all. Way to go, Randy. You’re the man, too.

So the problem with this movie is that not only was not as funny as I had hoped it would be, but the ending kind of sucks and there really isn’t much character development to be had either. You’d think with a movie like this that the whole damn thing would be chock full of watching these three guys change from their old ways and there’d be some kind of redemption at the end, but it really doesn’t come off that way. It actually reminded me of something like On The Road by Jack Kerouac, where the audience is just kind of watching these characters drift through life and then that’s the end. It’s actually kind of depressing after a while. I don’t know, I guess the whole machismo thing didn’t do it for me either.

But even though I wasn’t sold on it the first time around, The Last Detail is a movie I can see myself revisiting because it feels like something you need to see with other people who find it freakin’ hilarious to really get it, like The Big Lebowski. And like I mentioned earlier, it’s directed by Hal Ashby, and I’m big on Hal Ashby, so that’s another reason to give it second look. If anything, it’s compelled me to bump up a crap load of old Jack Nicholson movies to the top of my Netflix queue. So at least I’ve got that going for me.

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