When he was at the peak of his form, during the 1970s and 1980s, one of the greatest American actors of all time, Jack Nicholson, earned a nomination for almost every role he appeared in. Hal Ashby’s humorous drama (Harold and Maude, Being There, Coming Home) written by Robert Towne (Chinatown) based on the novel of the same name by Darryl Poncisan is no exception. In total, “The Last Detail” had three Oscar nominations (Nicholson for Best Role, Randy Quaid for Supporting and Towne for Screenplay), and today this film is considered one of New Hollywood’s many highlights and a film that is also a subversive critique of the militaristic spirit.
And this is completely in line with the social spirit and time of the time, because that was the period when anti-war protests against the American intervention in Vietnam were at their peak. But there is no mention of war, but “The Last Detail” is a film that wisely and wittily questions military discipline, strict rules, strictness and often completely absurd punishment for some seemingly benign mistakes. One such benign mistake will be made by the somewhat slow, simple-minded 18-year-old Navy soldier Larry Meadows (Quaid). In addition to earning a dishonorable release, he was sentenced to as much as eight years in prison for stealing $ 40 from a charity run by the wife of a high-ranking officer.
Two other Navy NCOs, Billy Badass Buddusky (Nicholson) and Richard Mule Mulhall (Otis Young) were given the task of escorting Meadows from a garrison in Virginia to a military prison in Maine in the far north of the United States. They are given a week to bring Meadows to jail, and if he is late, they will be expelled from the army. Although at first neither Badass nor Mule are particularly enthusiastic about the task, they will embark on this adventure, and when they realize that Meadows is actually a mentally undercapacitated, unlived kid who has never gone through or seen anything in his life, who is also a kleptomaniac, they decide to afford it. a week of life and spending before being taken into custody.
Of course, the older sailors will feel sorry for the kid who was draconianly punished for a actually harmless crime, and far from not benefiting a little deviation from military discipline. This journey to a military prison will almost turn into a graduation for Meadows, who will experience and try some things for the first time in his life in the company of an older duo who will be a kind of teacher for him. But the question is whether Mule and Badass will actually do him a disservice with all this because when the moment comes that he has to go to jail, Meadows will realize what he is missing from the best years of that time he will spend imprisoned. And while Meadows is a phlegmatic, slow guy, who at first doesn’t seem too excited to be in jail for eight years for complete stupidity, Badass is the one who is angrier and angrier than him because of the whole situation.
He is a typical rebel, a loudmouth who loves to get into conflict situations and he is cynical about this whole military life, but he clearly despises all this false discipline and pretense. And indeed Nicholson is great in the role of an angry, resentful guy who understands the system and everything that happens around it very well, but he is even more aware that he can’t change anything there. It was also one of the first roles for Randy Quaid, who was chosen by Ashby before Robert Englund (Freddy Kruger) and John Travolta and was a great hit because he is much bigger and bigger than the two who accompany him to prison, and yet works alongside them. so helpless and humble. It is interesting that the writer of the novel Ponicsan himself was in the navy in the sixties and wrote his first novel based on the story of a guy who was sentenced to many years in prison for stealing change. Thirty years later, Ponicsan also wrote a sequel to “The Last Flag Flying,” and a few years ago Richard Linklater screened the novel, only changing the names of the characters, replacing Nicholson, Young, and Quaid with Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne, and Steve Carrell.
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