you and another guy are given a simple task with more than enough time to complete it. shore patrol. you are both given a week to escort a prisoner from your naval base at norfolk to the portsmouth military prison. you begin to see this assignment as an opportunity. a chance to experience and, better yet, a chance to facilitate an experience.
the other patrolman is nicknamed “mule." your nickname is “badass” (for good reason). the prisoner is this kid who hasn’t had enough of a life to even earn a nickname. his name is meadows. your story is written by robert towne and is directed for the screen by hal ashby.
the last detail was released in 1974. its initial release was delayed for almost two years because the characters “curse like sailors.” apparently the word "fuck" appears 87 times throughout. i read this and realized that while watching the movie, i didn’t notice the profanity. this may be due to the fact that i have such a yuck mouth myself, but i think it is more a testament the natural believability of performance.
vincent canby called the portrayal of “badass” jack nicholson’s role of a lifetime. he is an explosive force of nature; nicholson captures perfectly the working stiff who spends his whole life in isolated service to a system and an apathetic civilian society. he would be invisible if he wasn't so loud.
there was a time before jack nicholson was “jack,” "the joker," or "uncle jack," as i like to think of him now. his work in the early seventies was paired with great filmmakers who knew how to use the real character of jack nicholson. the people he plays in these stories are unique individuals and nicholson, no matter what, is always there. he is always right there. i get a sense of real collaboration in these works.
like "badass," nicholson facilitates us in the experience of these films. he shows up just as the lights go down. he's along for the ride just like you. but he's a little wiser (or wise assed), more knowing, definitely funnier and more fearless with emotion.
oh and i love the name jack. i named our cat jack and not too long ago i had a job where i convinced all of my co-workers and clients to call me jack small.