This kind of parody Western follows two Navy sailors tasked with transporting a third to an 8-year stint in military jail. Meadows (Randy Quaid) tried to steal $40 from a box meant to receive funds for polio research—a pet cause of the base's commander's wife, hence the disproportionate sentence. "Badass" Buddusky (Jack Nicholson) and "Mule" Mulhall (Otis Young) have five days to get him from Norfolk, Virginia, to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Greyhound and Amtrak ferry them from one uninspiring city to the next across the too-civilized East.
Badass and Mule take pity on Meadows and show him a boozy, whoring good time, including a stint in Manhattan. Here, two career sailors (self-dubbed "lifers") and their young charge make contact with the no-longer-new counterculture. They don't get laid, but their encounter with coffee house mantra chanter Donna (Luana Anders) leads them back to a boho pad with friendly idiots who grill them about Nixon and authoritarianism. File The Last Detail somewhere between 1970's Joe and 1971's Taking Off, in which hard-hat conformists and suburban parents (respectively) come to Manhattan and get a quick crash course on how they can rap with the kids but never really connect with them.
Featuring jocular male bonding with a bitter sting that's too conspicuously undersold, The Last Detail is no anti-authoritarian landmark, but it's a good time with superbly atmospheric location footage. "I hate this motherfucking chickenshit detail," Mule grouses—chickenshit being a term originated in the army for rules that demean rather than instill morale, with military culture a close duplicate of the equally uninspiring civilian world. At Film Forum.
Opens April 5