The Last Detail

The Last Detail is a 1973 American comedy-drama film directed by Hal Ashby, from a screenplay by Robert Towne, based on the 1970 novel of the same name by Darryl Ponicsan. The film stars Jack Nicholson, Otis Young, Randy Quaid, Clifton James, and Carol Kane. It follows two career sailors assigned to escort a young emotionally withdrawn recruit from their Virginia base to Portsmouth Naval Prison in Maine.


On Saturday, December 15, 1973, Navy lifers Signalman First Class Billy "Badass" Buddusky (Jack Nicholson) and Gunner's Mate First Class Richard "Mule" Mulhall (Otis Young) are awaiting orders in Norfolk, Virginia. They are assigned a shore patrol detail escorting 18-year old Seaman Larry Meadows (Randy Quaid) to Portsmouth Naval Prison near Kittery, Maine. Meadows has been court-martialed, dishonorably discharged, and sentenced to eight years in the brig for stealing $40 from a charity fund run by the wife of a senior officer. Buddusky and Mulhall are given one week to escort Meadows to Portsmouth, and if they fail to complete the task on time or let Meadows go free, they will be kicked out of the Navy and lose all benefits and pay. Despite their initial resentment of the detail, and realizing their prisoner is a kleptomaniac who steals compulsively, Billy and Mule begin to like Meadows as they escort him on a train ride through the wintry northeastern states. They decide to show him a good time before delivering him to the authorities.