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Film / The Last Detail

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Buddusky: (after the bartender refuses to serve Meadows a drink because he's underage) I'm gonna kick your ass around the block for drill, man.
Bartender: You try it, and I'll call the shore patrol.
Buddusky: (pulls his gun out and slams it on the bar) I am the motherfucking shore patrol, motherfucker!

The Last Detail is a 1973 comedy-drama film directed by Hal Ashby and written by Robert Towne, which is based on the novel by Darryl Ponicsan. It stars Jack Nicholson, Otis Young and Randy Quaid. The film was nominated for three Oscars: Best Actor for Nicholson, Best Supporting Actor for Quaid and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium for Towne. While not winning any Oscars, Nicholson did win Best Actor when it was shown at the 1974 Cannes Film Festival. The movie is notorious for its use of profanity (with over 60+ uses of the word "fuck", a then record for most uses of the word), so much so that the studio had cold feet before releasing it.

Signalman First Class Billy "Badass" Buddusky (Nicholson) and Gunner's Mate First Class Richard "Mule" Mulhall (Young) are tasked with escorting an 18-year old sailor named Larry Meadows (Quaid) to the Portsmouth Naval Prison. His crime was attempting to steal $40 from a collection box for a charity from his commanding officer's wife. They were so upset with his attempt to steal, his punishment would be 8 years in prison and dishonorably discharged. Both Buddusky and Mulhall feel that this is quite a stiff punishment for the young man and on the way to the prison, they take a liking to Meadows, and feeling bad he'll miss most of his young adulthood, decide to show him a good time, to indulge in the pleasures such as getting drunk and finding a whore.


Nicholson and Towne would collaborate again the following year, on Roman Polański's Chinatown.

This Film Contains Examples of:

  • Accidental Misnaming: At one point early in the trip, Buddusky refers to Mulhall as "Mulhouse".
  • Adaptational Dumbass: Downplayed with Buddusky. While he is by no means a true dumbass, he is vastly different in the novel, where he was a closet intellect, a former school teacher and a reader of Camus.
  • Alcoholic Parent: Meadows's mother is implied to be one, when they attempt to visit her and she's not home, only finding a whiskey bottle in her house.
  • Badass Boast: Buddusky makes one that lives up to his nickname. When at the bar, when the bartender refuses to serve them drinks due to Meadows being underage, Buddusky threatens him and with the latter threatening to call shore patrol. His retort? "I am the motherfucking shore patrol, motherfucker!"
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  • Blasphemous Boast: Discussed when Buddusky asks if Meadows got mad, he recalls a story about an officer asking him if he believes in Jesus. After he says yes, the officer responds, "I'm Jesus now". Which upset him, even saying he would get in trouble with the Chaplin. Buddusky is naturally disappointed Meadows didn't beat him up.
  • Casanova Wannabe: Buddusky fancies himself as a ladies men, and when the trio arrive at a place to get girls, he's seen talking to one about the navy life, but she wasn't buying it.
  • Character Development: With the help of Buddusky, Meadows takes a boost in confidence; evidence is seen when before he wouldn't ask for the cheese on his burger melted to later on when he makes the staff send back his eggs because they weren't over easy.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: One of the first post-Hays Code films to really indulge in this as it contains over 60+ uses of the F-word, a then-record at the time.
  • Creator Cameo: In one scene, director Hal Ashby can be found playing darts.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Meadows attempted to steal $40 from his commanding officer's wife's charity. And failed. His punishment? 8 years in military prison and dishonorably discharged. Both Buddusky and Mulhall lampshade this.
  • Downer Ending: Granted you knew it was coming, but it still doesn't get make it any less of a downer. After a time full of laughs, Meadows goes to the prison and the Marine in charge chews out the two for what they view as misconduct. They both leave angry as they head back to Norfolk, awaiting their next orders.
  • The Drunken Sailor: After the trio fail to get a beer at the bar due to Meadows being underage, they all buy some from the store and spend time in a hotel room and get liquored up.
  • Escort Mission: The mission of Buddusky and Mulhall is to escort Meadows from Norfolk to the Portsmouth Naval Prison, but since they have a week as a time limit, decide to show Meadows a good time before he goes off to the slammer.
  • Hit Me, Dammit!: In the hotel, Buddusky talks with Meadows about getting mad and tries to urge Meadows to punch him to let loose some anger, but the poor boy doesn't have it in him, much to the former's frustration.
  • Hope Spot: While out in the back after a BBQ, Meadows makes an attempt to run away from his captors. Unfortunately, he doesn't make it far and gets pistol-whipped into submission, bringing the poor boy into tears.
  • Horny Sailors: The trio look at some porn magazines and even attempt to get some girls. While unsuccessful there, they take Meadows to a whorehouse, so he can lose his virginity.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Buddusky is a bit of a hard-ass to Meadows, but he does care enough to help improve himself and feels bad about his eventual fate. And in the end when Meadows tries to run away, Buddusky catches up to him and pistol-whips him into submission. But when they finally arrive at the prison, the marine notices Meadow's injuries, he asks if he tried to escape. Buddusky lies and says no, so Meadows doesn't receive a stiffer punishment.
  • The Last Title
  • Manly Facial Hair: Buddusky sports a mustache and is a tough navy sailor who's not afraid to tell it like it is and to start fights.
  • Nice, Mean, and In-Between: Meadows is the nice, with his shy and adorkable demeanor; Buddusky is the mean, something of a hard-ass and willing to start fights with marines (though within Jerk with a Heart of Gold territory) and Mulhall is the In-Between, whose high-strung nature leads him to fight with Budduksy, but is more warmer acting later on.
  • Real Men Love Jesus: Besides Meadows with the Jesus story above, he even asks if it's sacrilegious to chant a Buddhist chant to give him good luck.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Mulhall isn't happy with Buddusky's laid-back nature doesn't really approve of him trying to show Meadows a good time, leading him to rip into Bududsky:
    Mulhall: I consider myself in jeopardy with you man, understand? In jeopardy. This ain't no farewell party n' he ain't retirin'. Understand? He's a prisoner n' we're takin' 'im to the jailhouse. N' you have a tendency to forget that. You're a menace, man. You ain't no simple shit Bad-Ass, you're a motherfuckin' menace. But from now on, MAA can go piss up a rope! You ain't no honcho! N' I wanna hear no more of this horseshit psychology jive! No more turnin' that boy's head around to prove what a fuckin' big man you are! You're a lifer like me! Navy's the best thing ever happened to me, n' I don't want'cha to fuck me up, y'understand?
  • Salt and Pepper: Buddusky (white) is more laid-back while Mulhall (black) more high-strung and takes his job more seriously. Though with time, the latter lightens up.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Meadows is the sensitive guy to Buddusky and Mulhall's manly men.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: In the original novel, Buddusky was killed in a fight at the end of the book. But in the film, he makes it out alive.
  • Speed Sex: The first time with the whore, Meadows was one and done, but the guys were generous with the money and gave him a second go, where he does much better.
  • Sticky Fingers: Meadows has something of a problem with kleptomania, even stealing before he joined the Navy. And while in the Navy, that's how he ended up in his current predicament. Early in their trip, he's even seen snatching a few snacks and hiding it under his coat, which he would snack on later.
    (Mulhall stares at him while snacking)
    • Though when the others found out, it reduced him to tears, feeling guilt over his habits and apologizing.
  • Two Shots from Behind the Bar: Averted with the bartender, who threatens this when Buddusky gets into it with him, but the latter points out that the former has a baseball bat underneath and he knows about it because he's seen him use it.