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JACK NICHOLSON WITH OTIS YOUNG TAKING ON 'THE LAST DETAIL'

Jack Nicholson and Otis Young in THE LAST DETAIL Year: 1973 Rating: *****

What makes THE LAST DETAIL as much comedy as drama is the brilliant use of quick editing, like whenever Navy lifer Jack Nicholson gets too drunk and boisterous, turning a would-be fight into just another time-filling tantrum... 

Cutting to the next scene before what seems important rolls into the overall road trip journey from New York to Boston on buses and trains, throughout in the snowy East Coast in what's very often regarded (by both critics and fans) as Jack Nicholson's greatest performance...

Jack Nicholson's Bad Ass starting a fight in THE LAST DETAIL

And it was before he had very much to compare it to, following EASY RIDER and FIVE EASY PIECES and CARNAL KNOWLEDGE, energetically combining wily charm and combative mood-swings... 

His character's been everywhere and seen everything, curbed perfectly by handsome black actor Otis Young as Mullhall nicknamed Mule, the mellow, dependable wing man to Jack's self-described Bad Ass Budduski...

Jack Nicholson and Otis Young in THE LAST DETAIL

Both taking young Navy petty thief/shy virgin Randy Quaid to a Marine prison, which is the plot here, repeated numerous times only to be deliberately and constantly curtailed as his two "guards" attempt showing the poor kid a great time while they get to spend the week away from the purgatory-like barracks...

Years later Randy Quaid was typecast as buffoonish (the 1980's comedy Bruce Dern) while this breakthrough performance, almost a non-performance, followed his doofus role in THE LAST PICTURE SHOW...

Director HAL ASHBY watching Jack Nicholson shoot darts in THE LAST DETAIL

Herein he's less pathetic but likewise quiet and humble, sweet-natured, simple-minded, with quirky mannerisms providing just enough sympathy to feel bad for... yet overriding the mainstream cliche of a young nobody becoming somebody, which in a more conventional movie would be tacked onto a 'feel-good' aspect...

Instead this gritty, swearing-up-a-storm indie's presented with on-the-street realism in both Hal Ashby's  tightest and loosest film with a Darryl Ponicsan adapted script by Nicholson's following-year's CHINATOWN scribe, Robert Towne...

Hippie party girl Kathleen Miller and Otis Young in THE LAST DETAIL

A Road Movie by train and on foot that includes stop-offs with shades of the bleak American landscape, and the inevitable hippie counter-culture rears up yet without taking over, like so many films from this parenthetical early-70's that's yet to entirely shed the 1960's...

The random hippies don't have a chance here, especially with the wall-to-wall military score bordering on parody while adding to the light comedy touch: a bursting, overly patriotic irony of bombastic glory so the audience is constantly reminded who and what it's about... 

Otis Young and Randy Quaid with Jack Nicholson in THE LAST DETAIL

Despite the eclectic trio literally being passengers, DETAIL epitomizes character-driven, especially Jack's tour de force role while making Otis Young the perfect sidekick, not as easy as it looks...

Constantly reminding his partner about their schedule and not wanting to be tossed out of the Navy, he's driven to sporadic party pooper bulwarks to Nicholson's spontaneity (you can almost imagine him saying "I'm too old for this")...

A yodeling Jack Nicholson and Nancy Allen in THE LAST DETAIL

An impossibility given Jack's resilient/streetwise Bad Ass, always moving forward, wandering from bars to diners to a public restroom fight to a motel room drinking binge (perhaps the greatest scene, teaching Quaid the art of signaling ships) to a stoned chick party to the inevitable de-virginizing whorehouse, featuring an adorable Goth-like Carol Kane...

Leading to Quaid's frantic (inevitable) escape attempt... but being dialogue-driven over action, the true climax has lecturing marine Michael Moriarity taking over, as if no one else existed, providing an edgy in-your-face diatribe in the rarest of cinematic miracles since THE LAST DETAIL, from beginning to end, hardly seems like a movie in the first place. 

Jack Nicholson and Otis Young with Michael Moriarty in THE LAST DETAIL

Otis Young and Jack Nicholson in THE LAST DETAIL
Otis Young and Jack Nicholson in THE LAST DETAIL
Otis Young in THE LAST DETAIL
Otis Young in THE LAST DETAIL
Jack Nicholson and Otis Young in THE LAST DETAIL with Randy Quaid
Jack Nicholson and Otis Young in THE LAST DETAIL
Jack Nicholson and Randy Quaid in THE LAST DETAIL with Don McGovern
Jack Nicholson and Otis Young in THE LAST DETAIL with Randy Quaid
Jack Nicholson and Randy Quaid in THE LAST DETAIL
Jack Nicholson and Nancy Allen in THE LAST DETAIL
Jack Nicholson and Otis Young in THE LAST DETAIL with Randy Quaid
Jack Nicholson and Randy Quaid in THE LAST DETAIL choosing...
Hollywood's first 70's Gothic Girl CAROL KANE in THE LAST DETAIL
Carol Kane and Otis Young in THE LAST DETAIL
Jack Nicholson and Otis Young in THE LAST DETAIL
Jack Nicholson and Otis Young in THE LAST DETAIL with Randy Quaid
Jack Nicholson and Otis Young in THE LAST DETAIL with Randy Quaid
Jack Nicholson and Otis Young in THE LAST DETAIL with Patricia Hamilton
Jack Nicholson and Otis Young THE LAST DETAIL with Randy Quaid and Gilda Radner
Jack Nicholson and Otis Young in THE LAST DETAIL with Randy Quaid and Gilda Radner
Another Buddhist church cameo with Derek McGrath in THE LAST DETAIL
Easy Rider's Luana Anders and Randy Quaid in THE LAST DETAIL
Jack Nicholson and Nancy Allen in THE LAST DETAIL
Michael Moriarty in THE LAST DETAIL
Randy Quaid in THE LAST DETAIL

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