The Last Detail (1973)

The Last Detail was another film from the GQ little-seen guy-movie list, and another one recommended by our friend The Big Brain. Jack Nicholson and Otis Young are two “lifers” in the navy, selected to escort a young sailor, Randy Quaid (resembling a young Peyton Manning), to prison. Quaid got an eight year sentence and a dishonorable discharge for a trifling event; this endears him to his captors, who decide to show him a good time before he starts serving time. Nicholson is magnetic, and Quaid sympathetic, in these roles. Carol Kane is given a brief but poignant role. Gilda Radner appears briefly, and I struggled to place a non-speaking Nancy Allen, who later starred in Carrie and Robocop. It’s thankless work, being a girl in a guy movie.

The film is by turns funny and sad. It’s most certainly a guy movie; this is not one I would have enjoyed by myself or with girlfriends. The ending can only be abrupt and unsatisfying, which points to an underlying theme in many of these guy movies: it may be fun to be a guy, but after a while the Peter Pan syndrome wears thin, and the illusions of fun and cool are stripped away.

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