In THE LAST DETAIL, the winning combination of director Hal Ashby, screenwriter Robert Towne, and actor Jack Nicholson turned an unheralded novel by Darryl Ponicsan into a classic example of Hollywood's brash era of the 1970s. Navy lifers Billy "Bad Ass" Budduskey (Nicholson) and Mule Mulhall (Otis Young) are given a week to escort a teenage petty thief, Larry Meadows (Randy Quaid), from Virginia to the naval penitentiary in Maine. Their plan to bring him there quickly, then party the rest of the time away, changes when they come to sympathize with the naive Meadows. He's clearly an uncontrollable kleptomaniac who was given an unjust sentence, so they decide to include him in their plans. But as they escort him through the entire '60s scene, from bars, brawls, and drug-addled parties, to a visit to a prostitute (Carol Kane), they begin to worry that showing him the world he'll be soon be missing might not be the act of kindness they had initially intended.
Based on an unflinchingly bawdy script from Towne, THE LAST DETAIL was the first Hollywood film to present sailors in all their F-word-spouting glory. Nicholson is once again phenomenal as Budduskey. Ashby boldly tones down the killer smile, quick anger, and antiestablishment attitude that would launch Nicholson into mega-stardom with 1974's CHINATOWN. When balanced with Quaid's and Young's standout performances, the film reaches a new level and results in an ultimately moving character-based dramatic comedy.
Cannes Best Actor 1974 Jack Nicholson American actor, producer, ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST