Monday, May 11, 2009

Film Review: THE LAST DETAIL (1973, Hal Ashby)

Stars: 5 of 5.
Running Time: 103 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Jack Nicholson, Randy Quaid (MIDNIGHT EXPRESS, MAJOR LEAGUE II), Michael Moriarty (TROLL, THE STUFF, IT'S ALIVE III: ISLAND OF THE ALIVE), Otis Young (BLOOD BEACH, THE HOLLYWOOD KNIGHTS), Carol Kane (LICENSE TO DRIVE, THE PRINCESS BRIDE), Gilda Radner, Nancy Allen (ROBOCOP, BLOW OUT), writer Robert Towne.
Tag-lines: "No *#@!!* Navy's going to give some poor **!!@* kid eight years in the #@!* brig without me taking him out for the time of his *#@!!* life. "
Best one-liner: "I am the motherfucking shore patrol, motherfucker! I am the motherfucking shore patrol! Give this man a beer!"

Scripted by Robert Towne (CHINATOWN, SHAMPOO), directed by Hal Ashby (BEING THERE, HAROLD AND MAUDE), and based on the novel by Darryl Ponicsan, THE LAST DETAIL is a grand rumination on injustice, indoctrination, the privileged, and the complex dynamics that bind them together, and it's a film that's as prone to hilarity as it is to soul-crushing angst. It's a film of train stations and travel lockers, of Schlitz and Pabst and shitty hotel rooms; of fear and regret and bravado and rage.

It's about that class of people (which is comprised of nearly every one of us) who are instruments in a flawed system and powerless to do anything but bitch, bitch, bitch. And we're really good at that. Really good at expending all of our righteous indignation at the wrong people, at putting more energy into bitching instead of taking action.

But what can we do? Suppress our emotions until they explode (invariably, at the wrong time)? Maybe we should just stick to that. Do the job. Deliver the man. Listen to your handlers. Just keep moving so nothing sinks in. Drink your drink and mouth off; take out your frustrations on the wrong people, the other cogs like you. Maybe crack a joke or two to make yourself feel like more of a man and less like a lackey. Repeat.

Nicholson lives up to the hype: highly volatile and extremely complex. Otis Young is fantastic as well, and truly holds his own against Nicholson. (Young really should have had the chance to work more.) Youthful Randy Quaid is bumbling and extremely sympathetic. Brief appearances by Gilda Radner, Nancy Allen, and Carol Kane add feminine flavor amidst the masculinity, and the icing on the cake is Michael Moriarty, popping up in the final act as one of those asshole 'handlers' I was talking about. Excellent, excellent, excellent film, and one of those perfect, iconic fusions of script, direction, and acting that seemed to flow so effortlessly out of the 1970's. Five stars.

-Sean Gill


Todd said...

Man, we LOVE Jack back here at home. can't get enough. So much that we used your blog as a link back to a note I wrote about him.

Sean Gill said...

Thanks, man, glad you enjoyed it! Just saw the ridiculous FIVE EASY PIECES reenactment on your!

Todd said...

Thanks for checking us out, man.