Wednesday, March 4, 2009

DJG / The Last Detail

The Last Detail * * * *
Directed by: Hal Ashby / 1973

Likable-Losers…a subject often explored at the movies. I’ve seen three Hal Ashby films: “Harold & Maude”, “Being There” and now “The Last Detail”, and they seem to push this format and in charming ways. Hal Ashby is/was a master at it and I find great enjoyment and watch-ability in his work. I see director Alexander Payne as one of the new Likable-Loser torch bearers, and over 20 years after Ashby’s death. Much like Payne’s 2004 masterstroke “Sideways”, Ashby’s 1973 “The Last Detail” takes polar opposites colliding on a road trip. However, Ashby’s heroes wear Navy uniforms and chug beer as opposed to Payne’s cacky-clad wine tasters.

Jack Nicholson puts on another Academy Award nominated cursing-crazy-eyed-showy display as self-proclaimed Billy "Bad Ass" Buddusky. He’s a Navy man for life, and the type of guy you love to hate but would hate to not have on your side when haters came around. Despite his faults, you want to spend time with him. Odd how that happens, isn’t it? His partner in Navy Shore Patrol officiating is "Mule" Mulhall, and well played by Otis Young. Mulhall is tough as nails, can be a bear at times, but not as cocky and unbearably full of “p-and-v” as Billy. They’re the perfect balance partnered up for an important detail to transport a fellow Navy man named Larry Meadows (a very young and brilliant Randy Quaid with the same cheeky blushed face as a young Bob Dylan) by bus and train across the Northeast. Reason being, he was caught trying to steal $40 dollars from a charity helmed by the Naval Commander’s wife. Bad idea, Larry’s stupidity is, as he’s sentenced to 8 years in naval prison and dishonorable discharge. Though not the brightest man in uniform, Larry is genuinely a good, naïve kid, but is now set as the prime example of “what-not-to-do”. And what about his Navy escorts? Billy and Mulhall end up best beer and brawl buddies with him as they take their time showing Larry a good time and a thing or two about life before he's locked away. They might even learn a thing or two themselves.


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