Last Detail, The (1973)
“This ain’t no farewell party and he ain’t retiring, understand? He’s a prisoner, and we’re takin’ him to the jailhouse.”
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
Response to Peary’s Review:
He notes that “during the entire film you can sense that as the three men learn about life, an explosion is building” — and you definitely find yourself wondering what (if anything) will happen during the final tense moments. Peary points out that this “film is known for its rhythmic, realistic, salty, wryly written dialogue by Robert Towne” and “a great, swaggering, angry, rebel-without-a-cause performance by Nicholson (as ‘Badass’ Buddusky).”
Indeed, Nicholson’s Oscar-nominated performance is among his best. Meanwhile, Peary notes that “Quaid is quite touching”:
… and points out there are “small parts” by Michael Moriarty:
… Carol Kane (“memorable as a prostitute”):
… Nancy Allen:
… and Gilda Radner.
Towne’s Oscar-nominated script — based on a 1970 novel of the same name by Darryl Ponicsan — is leisurely yet incisive, offering us seemingly realistic glimpses into what such an unconventional road trip might look and feel like. We watch young Quaid as “he drinks, visits a prostitute, is in a brawl, [and] has adventures”:
… and we are confident that his life has been changed for the better by spending time with Nicholson and Young, despite the bleak trajectory of his next few years.
Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:
One thought on “Last Detail, The (1973)”
Rewatch (10/17/22). Not must-see.
Strangely, I had remembered this as a better film than it actually is. Not that it’s terrible but it does have flaws. A number of sections seem improvised by the cast – and not in a particularly interesting way; so there are some lulls. Ultimately, the film feels somewhat thin.
Ashby’s direction is effective in the sense that he creates a believable bond between the three men (with Quaid impressing me more than Nicholson – who isn’t bad; neither is Young), and there is a striking sense of atmosphere.
In 2017, director Richard Linklater adapted and filmed Ponicsan’s follow-up novel (‘Last Flag Flying’), turning it into ‘a spiritual sequel’. It’s got a lot more to it and, thus, is a better film.