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MOVIE: THE LAST DETAIL (as part of Revelation Film Festival 2018)

| 11 July 2018 | Reply

MOVIE: THE LAST DETAIL (as part of Revelation Film Festival 2018)
Written by Robert Towne from the novel by Richard Ponsican
Directed by Hal Ashby
Starring Jack Nicholson, Otis Young, Randy Quaid, Carol Kane
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar

Hal Ashby’s 1973 film The Last Detail shines an illuminating light on an America in a state of flux, torn apart by the hypocrisy and debacle of the Vietnam war, and still fighting to come to terms with the social and sexual revolution.

Wryly hilarious and bitingly derogative of the military system, Ashby’s insightful direction follows naval Shore Police Billy Buddusky (Jack Nicholson) and Richard ‘Mule’ Mulhall (Otis Young, himself an ex-marine) are ordered to escort young seaman Larry Meadows (Randy Quaid) across the country to naval prison. The simple, naïve Meadows has been busted for attempting to pilfer $40 from their commanding officer’s wife’s favourite charity collection box, and received the ludicrously excessive sentence of eight long years in the brig for his crime.

The leads perfectly embody the clash of being a military man: Buddusky the wise cracking badass who follows orders but doesn’t like them and twists them wherever possible; Mulhall the African American who keeps his head down to avoid prejudice and trouble; and Meadows the simpleton from a neglectful background who barely understands what’s going on. None of them are happy with their mission, but none of them stand up to Meadows’ fate. This is America.

Buddusky and Mule show the kid a good time as they cross the country, introducing him to drinking and women (an early appearance from Carol Kane as a young, world weary prostitute), and with every step closer to their destination get less happy with what they’ve been forced to do. They run across a group of people chanting for a happier future, go to a party and smoke dope, and all through these encounters everyone is wanting social and political change… yet no-one is doing anything to make that happen.

Nicholson received a nomination for the best actor Academy Award and Golden Globe for his portrayal of the likeable but dangerous Buddusky, all pent up anger and confusion, and won the Palm D’Or at Cannes for best actor. Quaid was also nominated for best supporting actor in both the Academy Awards and the Golden Globes in a role which almost went to John Travolta.

Watching the film on the big screen all these years later is a real treat, especially as I had forgotten how hilarious the movie is. The profanity – shocking for the time, it almost stopped the movie being released at all – is run of the mill nowadays, but the story remains as pertinent as ever.

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Category: Movie & Theatre Reviews

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