January 29, 2005

The Last Detail

Gilda Radner has a bit part in this film. I noticed her because she was playing a Nichiren Shoshu member.

I had seen bits of this before, and became very interested because of the scene where the three sailors, one of whom is an 18-year-old kid condemned to eight years in the brig, stumble upon a Nichiren Shoshu meeting.

I used to be a Nichiren Shoshu member quite a while back. It hasn't been long enough yet, but at least it wasn't recent. I can tell you that the actors certainly chant properly, and the altars are set up correctly. Whoever produced this knew what they were talking about regarding Nichiren Shoshu Buddhist practice. I think they share my attitude because the film seems to poke fun at it, and the kid starts chanting but does not get what he's chanting for. Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo (the chant) has a curious, but non-essential role in this story. The writer or whoever put it in apparently has an axe to grind.

I was startled when I saw Gilda giving an experience at the meeting. The members are displayed (appropriately too) as happy idiots.


I decided to get my digression out of the way first. This is a very good film even if you don't have a clue about chanting. Maybe you'll like it better if you don't.

Jack Nicholson really shows his stuff here. By 1973 he'd been in several flicks and this portrayal earned him what was already his third Oscar nomination (he lost to Jack Lemmon [Save the Tiger]). But the acting of Randy Quaid, who plays Meadows, the young sailor who got caught stealing, really makes this film. You never quite know what to make of Meadows. Is he just an idiot? Is he not so dumb, but just deprived of an upbringing that taught him any values?

You have to feel sorry for Meadows, and the sailors charged with taking him to jail certainly do. They do everything they can to show him a good time before he gets locked away. The story is really simple, which I appreciate. It doesn't get too deep into the motivations of Buddusky (Nicholson) and his mate Mule (Otis Young). They are simple men who like a good beer and a bar fight if it finds them.

There are no startling plot twists or revelations about any of the characters in The Last Detail. These two Navy guys take a theif to navy-jail and you witness the adventures they have on the way. The movie tagline, which is a quote from Buddusky, says it all: "No *#@!!* Navy's going to give some poor **!!@* kid eight years in the #@!* brig without me taking him out for the time of his *#@!!* life."

According to the movie trivia on IMDB, John Travolta was up for the part of Meadows right up until the last minute, losing out to Quaid.

I saw this on Flix.

Posted by Wayne at January 29, 2005 04:54 PM
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