Two bawdy, tough looking navy lifers - "Bad-Ass" Buddusky, and "Mule" Mulhall - are commissioned to escort a young pilferer named Meadows to the brig in Portsmouth. Meadows is not much of a thief. Indeed, in his late teens, he is not much of a man at all. His great crime was to try to steal forty dollars from the admiral's wife's pet charity. For this, he's been sentenced to eight years behind bars. At first, Buddusky and Mulhall view the journey as a paid vacation, but their holiday spirits are quickly depressed by the prisoner, who looks prepared to break into tears at any moment. And he has the lowest self-image imaginable. Buddusky gets it into his head to give Meadows a good time and teach him a bit about getting on in the world. Lesson one: Don't take every card life deals you. Next, he teaches Meadows to drink, and, as a coup de grace, finds a nice young whore to instruct him in lovemaking. Mule, who worries aloud about his own position with military authority, seems pleased ... Written by
The Last Detail by Hal Ashby is much like John Schlesinger's Midnight Cowboy in that they are both road trip movies as well as buddy movies. They are about friendships that forged in extreme circumstances and the effect that these experiences have on each character's lives.
In the last detail, an unfortunate seaman by the name of Meadows (Randy Quaid) is condemned to jail for eight years for a misdemeanor crime he was unable to even complete. Being caught with his hand in the cookie jar after a mere forty dollars, he is consequently transported from a naval base in the south to the naval prison in Portsmouth, Maine. The last detail of a few veteran naval officers, namely Billy "Bad Ass" Buddusky (Jack Nicholson) and "Mule" Mulhall (Otis Young) is to transport this eighteen year old, soon to be prisoner up the east coast.
The three gentlemen have never met before and all seem to have different interests. Billy and Mule are after some welcomed time off from the suffocating life on the naval base, while Meadows is drowning in his own depression. Billy is more of a lenient presence, while Mule seems to want to do his duty first and then relax. Soon the men form a bond. This bond and their relationship is what carry the movie. Meadows is an innocent and modest teenager who found his way into the navy because of a shop lifting problem. However, after hearing his story and spending time with the boy, the two officers realize the ludicrous charges that have been brought against such an undeserving soldier.
They take pity on him and decide to make his last days of freedom ones in which he will cross every right of passage yet to be undiscovered and make them days that he will never forget. As they gradually open up to each other, they grant the prisoner a certain degree of freedom beginning with the removal of the cuffs in the beginning of the movie. They get him drunk in Washington, D.C., involve him in his first fist fight in New York City and help him lose his virginity in Boston. Beyond these rights of passage, the officers also relate to the emotional side of Meadows. They allow him to visit his mother. What the two officers did not realize is that the journey they would take would be reciprocal. They all end up taking their guard down.
One of the more poignant lines in the film is when Meadows refers to the officers as his beast friends. Although he has only known them for less than a week, the sad fact is that these men are probably the closest friends that he has ever had. Mule and Billy have had much more life experience and are well versed in the details and idiosyncrasies that life involves. They connect with meadows because before this trip, he had been yet untouched by the worse side of life. His general doe eyed demeanor drives home the fact that he really does not deserve the treatment that he's receiving. Upon leaving the prison, I don't believe that Mule and Billy are so much angry with the way the ascending officer treated them as they are with the situation that Meadows is now faced with. "We could have prevented this.
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