Gets better with each viewing; an overlooked classic
C. Heinrich | Oyster Bay, NY USA | 01/12/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is one of my favorites, but it's also one of the most difficult movies to describe to people. Yes, it's about two experienced guys in the Navy who are assigned to escort a young charge (whom they don't know) to Naval prison. And yes, they have some fun along the way, knowing how sad the situation really is. But there's an indescribable something about "The Last Detail" that just gets to me on a pretty deep level. First of all, it's the acting. I mean if you ever question Jack Nicholson's talent and depth as an actor, then watch this movie. I beg to argue about who on earth could have ever embodied this role this deeply. I don't think any of the other big and great actors of his time could have pulled it off this perfectly (Gene Hackman, Al Pacino, George C. Scott, Robert DeNiro). Also, Otis Young and Randy Quaid are pitch-perfect in their roles as well, though the movie clearly belongs to Nicholson. This is a GREAT PERFORMANCE!! It's the definition of one! But in addition to the acting, the photography of the film is brilliant. It captures the times and places in a rather bleak yet very haunting way. The guys drinking beer in the parking garage in D.C. The three of them pressed into the small hotel room in D.C., along with all those empty beer bottles. Walking a quiet and snowy residential block in Camden, NJ. Walking the streets of nighttime NYC. Playing darts in a bar in NYC. Going to a late night party in an NYC apartment. Going to a Boston brothel. Trying to grill and have a picnic in the middle of a snowy park in Boston! I don't know if it's just my fascination with the time that causes me to find it so darn striking, but it just is. I find these scenes so haunting, and so REAL. To me, those two things are what make this film so exceptional. The dialogue is also brilliant, as is the complexity of the emotions that are raised by the story. I guess it works on a lot of levels. Just don't miss it, whether you're a Nicholson fan or not. But if you are a Nicholson fan, don't miss out on what is probably his greatest performance!!"
An Unsung Classic
Gary F. Taylor | Biloxi, MS USA | 01/26/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Directed by Hal Ashby, who made such powerful commentaries on life in America as SHAMPOO, COMING HOME, BEING THERE and the cult-favorite HAROLD AND MAUDE, THE LAST DETAIL offers the story of three U.S. Navy sailors on a toot--and at the time of its 1973 release it was chiefly noted as the most profane film to achieve a mainstream release. The passage of time has dimmed that profanity's bite, but nothing can dim the power of its performances, it's darkly funny story, or the director's bitter vision of both life in the Navy and the urban decay of 1970s America.Two Navy-lifers (Jack Nicholson and Otis Young) are ordered to escort a young sailor (Randy Quaid) to a military prison, where he will do eight years followed by dishonorable discharge for attempting to steal a charity jar containing forty dollars. Once the trip gets underway, they realize the young sailor is essentially an innocent--and they set out to show him a good time before he is locked away. And their idea of a good time ranges from a bout of hard drinking in a hotel room to a brawl in a men's restroom to an evening with New York hookers. Along the way, Nicholson and Young gradually realize that they are just as much in prison as Quaid will soon be--victims of their own ennui, serving out their sentences in a military that fosts coarseness, frustration, and mindless machisimo as a matter of course.The performances are excellent throughout. This was the film that launched Nicholson to stardom--but it is also a film that allows us to see what Nicholson could do before he became immured in the trappings of his own fame and collapsed into self-characture: he is every bit as good here as he would be in ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST and CHINATOWN. Otis Young, an actor whose career never quite took off, is Nicholson's equal here, balancing Nicholson's excesses with his no less firey but considerably more commonsense role. And Randy Quaid scores an equally memorable performance as the young sailor, while Carol Kane gives a memorable turn as one of the hookers they encounter in their travels. Watch closely and you'll also discover a very young Gilda Radner as a member of a religious cult.In spite of the noteriety it received upon release, like many of the best films of the 1970s THE LAST DETAIL has fallen through the cracks to become a largely unsung classic. Fashion changed, and with the advent of Ronald Regan, the stock market boom, and two decades of heavy-handed materialism Americans abandoned their cinematic realism and social statement in favor of big budget, special effects heavy, and largely escapist film. But the pendulum inevitably swings back, and now that we face serious issues both at home and abroad such films as THE LAST DETAIL are at last, perhaps, beginning to come into their own. Strongly recommended."
This is the real navy.
Gary F. Taylor | 11/06/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I spent four long years in the navy depicted in this movie. The bleakness, tawdriness, and general sense of third-rate emptiness capture perfectly the true experience of enlisted navy life as I knew it in the late sixties and early seventies. Nicholson plays the quintessential lifer: angry,ignorant, arrogant,full of himself and yet empty at the same time. He prides himself on his hostility and knows no real friends. This movie should be required watching for potential recruits.Forget the slogans and the posters; forget the action, romance, and comedy movies about navy life: this is the real thing! There's another side to the real experience that is captured with wry accuracy in this picture. A literature of profanity, with its unique vocabulary and syntax permeates and finally makes bearable life in uniform. The Last Detail is rich with this twisted art form based on the F-word. Watch the interaction early on between Nicholson and the chief master-at-arms in the transit barracks. They got it just right."
I lost my f***ing shoe
Dylan Groves | Kitchener-Waterloo, ON CA | 09/01/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Hal Ashby's "The Last Detail" is the sort of film one hears about via one's more cultured relatives. However, unlike the numerous films that seem to have unjustifiably occupied a significant portion of one's siblings'(and one's uncle's and aunt's etc.) cinematic canon, "The Last Detail" is a masterpiece. Jack Nicholson gives what may be his finest performamnce as Signalman First Class Buddusky.
Don't miss this one. "
Jack Nicholson's greatest role
David Dearborn | Connecticut USA | 12/01/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you're even a casual Jack Nicholson fan and haven't seen the uncut version of this less-than-famous, boringly-named road movie, you haven't lived. To me, this is the ultimate Nicholson role--cynical Navy petty officer Billy 'Badass' Buddusky, who's assigned with a quiet shipmate (Otis Young) to escort a hapless young swabbie (skinny Randy Quaid) by train and bus from Norfolk, Va., to the Portsmouth, N.H., naval prison. You can imagine the adventures along the way. Raw, wild, comedic and poignant, 'The Last Detail' is an ultimate slice-of-life romp that's more fun to watch than its fellow contemporary classic, 'Five Easy Pieces.' To me, it's also far more substantive than the next Nicholson vehicle written by Robert Towne in the same period, 'Chinatown.' You may remember the 1960s marketing slogan 'Sean Connery IS James Bond. Well, Jack Nicholson IS Billy Baddusky!"