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The details in "The Last Detail"

Posted at 5:59 PM on June 25, 2007 by Euan Kerr

For weeks I have been trying to the youngsters in our house to watch "The Last Detail." Hal Ashby's 1973 tale (penned by Robert Towne) of two sailors ordered to transport a young man across country to serve 8 years in the brig has stuck in my mind ever since I saw it a quarter century ago. As so often happens though, the kids were always too busy, so they never picked up the DVD.

Finally my beloved and I sat down to watch it over the weekend, and it blew me away. EVERYONE should see this film (unless of course you are mortally offended by hearing sailors swear.) Jack Nicholson and Otis Young play the two Navy "lifers" Billy 'Bad Ass' Budusky and Mule Mulhall. They bitterly complain about the Navy, yet clearly love the way it's given them a life and a purpose.

That love is thrown into question though as they see the wretched injustice of what's happening to the kid, Larry Meadows, (Randy Quaid.) He's clearly joined the Navy for the same reasons, but has run afoul of the system by stealing from the charity box set out by the wife of the base commander. She has him throw the book at him.

While we revel in the way Budusky and Mulhall decide to show Meadows a few of the pleasures of life (or at least their selection:boozing, fighting and visiting a brothel,) the mounting sadness of the inevitable arrival at the brig permeates the story.

There's a scene in "The Last Detail," which is one of the chilliest in modern cinema. The trio decide to have a picnic even though it's freezing and snowing. They sit and drink Schlitz from old style beer cans looking miserable, but trying to put on a brave face. I swear I was unable to drink beer on a cold day for years without thinking of that scene.

Jack Nicholson has become a parody of himself in recent years, but this is the real stuff. Check it out.

And we can only wait for "Last Flag Flying" the rumored sequel starring Nicholson, Quaid, and Morgan Freeman supposedly due in 2008

June 2007
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