Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Last Detail

The Last Detail (Hal Ashby, 1973) [6]
The Last Detail is an alright film, but I find nothing about it that's very exceptional. It's not flashy stylistically, and Ashby gives his actors plenty of room to go where they want to go; while normally positives in Ashby's work, the film seems slight. The film feels to go along at one steady pace the entire time, never ratcheting or relieving the tone of it. It makes sense to be this way, since the film is documenting the mundane, strangling existence of Navy life but it doesn't resonate with me for whatever reason. Jack Nicholson and Otis Young play two Navy lifers assigned a duty to transport a young sailor (Randy Quaid) to Portsmouth Naval Prison. They find out Meadows (Quaid) is going to do 8 years for stealing a collection box for a Polio charity. That crime is where the film takes an anti-authoritarian voice as the trio drink it up and try to give Meadows some fun before his imprisonment. Nicholson plays the type of character that screams 'Jack Nicholson character' and that may be an unintentional consequence of history seeing the film thirty-five years later. Quaid is good at playing a green young man that ended up in a bad situation. The real saving factor of the film is Robert Towne's script. It's profanity and moments of freewheeling anarchy add an anti-authoritarian undertone to the film. All three characters bristle at some of the domineering aspects of being in the Navy. The one thing that the film does recognize is that as much as these characters have their problems with Navy life, there's no way they can really fight it. The really do have no where else to go. Perhaps that's what makes The Last Detail a little disappointing. No matter how much you think or want these characters to do something, to show they wont take this drudgery, they are completely incapable.

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