The Last Detail (1973) starring Jack Nicholson, Otis Young, Randy Quaid, Clifton James, Carol Kane directed by Hal Ashby Movie Review

The Last Detail (1973)   4/54/54/54/54/5

Jack Nicholson as Buddusky in The Last Detail (1973)

Buddusky Buddies the Mule and the Meadows

Watching "The Last Detail" you realise they don't make movies like this anymore and the sad thing is that if they did they wouldn't be popular. The irony is that at its heart "The Last Detail" is a buddy movie, a comedy about unlikely travelling buddies becoming friends as they are forced to travel across county experiencing a variety of events on their journey. But where as modern buddy comedies end up being all about big set piece laughs there is none of that here as the comedy comes from the characters and how they not only bond but their reactions to certain things.

"Bad-Ass" Buddusky (Jack Nicholson - Easy Rider) and "Mule" Mulhall (Otis Young), two Navy lifers, are ordered to escort young thief Meadows (Randy Quaid - Paper Moon) to Portsmouth military prison and they have a week to do it in. To their surprise they discover that Meadows has been sentenced to 8 years for the attempted theft of $40, attempted because he never managed to steal the money anyway. Realising this weak, wet behind the ears 18 year old is going to suffer Bad-Ass and Mule attempt to toughen him up whilst also giving his a send off with a variety of experiences from his first drink to losing his virginity before they finally get him to his destination.

Randy Quaid and Otis Young in The Last Detail (1973)

So "The Last Detail" is a simple movie and as already mentioned it is little more than an unlikely buddy movie as Bad-Ass, Mule and Meadows become good friends on their week long journey across the country. As such the basis of the movie is not that original as we watch them bond and Meadows getting to the point where Bad-Ass and Mule are his friends rather than his guards. It is a nicely done aspect because it brings out an element of mutual respect, a scene where a woman encourages Meadows to run sees him refusing to because it would mean that they would be the ones in trouble.

What this means is that "The Last Detail" is very much a character driven comedy rather than set pieces so whilst on this journey Meadows has his first beer, first hangover and first lay it is not so much the events which make us laugh but they way these 3 characters interact. As such we have the tough Bad-Ass being hard but deep down feeling sorry for Meadows whilst Mule, trying to keep one eye on the job enjoys himself as he sees Meadows grow from being a walk over to a tough young man. It makes it enjoyable and amusing when you have Meadows asking Bad-Ass a question and him sniping back in an almost sarcastic big brother sort of way. It is why a movie like this would sadly not work because other than a scene in a whore house featuring an over eager Meadows there are few set piece gags.

Because "The Last Detail" is about the characters it is also a movie which rests firmly on the actors rather than the scenes and the trio of Jack Nicholson, Otis Young and Randy Quaid all work well together. Nicholson is simply a bad-ass, an authority hating smart ass who loves giving attitude and is so perfect, but then so is Young as Mule as he has this almost split going on, the man who keeps one on the task in hand but enjoys the fun they have along the way. And Quaid is impressive delivering the naive innocence of Meadows be it the humour early on as we watch him shoplift candy bars to the way he grows into a talkative young man.

What this all boils down to is that "The Last Detail" is simply a buddy movie, a comedy about unlikely friends on a journey. But unlike other buddy movies this isn't about set piece comedy but the friendship which forms and the way the characters interact and it makes it so much funnier than those set piece buddy movies.