Jack Nicholson received his third Oscar nomination for portraying Signalman 1st Class Billy L. "Bad Ass" Buddusky in The Last Detail.
Jack Nicholson has a rather interesting role in the film, since although he is the main character he really is not exactly the focus of the film precisely. It instead interestingly focuses on how he reacts to the naive Larry. It is a interesting dynamic, that might seem not seem conducive to developing a fully realized character, by Nicholson does this without fault, and it is fascinating that he does through his role that never really stops to tell specifically about Buddusky.
Nicholson though portrays this role with absolute ease, and charisma, it is another seventies Nicholson performance which really does mean a whole lot. In this decade Nicholson just has something else that no other actor ever hard is going to have. He is this unique presence and technique that is simply unforgettable in his nominated performances of this decade including this performance.
Nicholson develops a rather fascinating character in Buddusky because he is a career naval man, who does most certainly does his job thoroughly, and despite having problems with it he does not obviously hate it, yet still has an air of anti-establishment sentiment at the same time. It is an incredibly interesting mix of a character that Nicholson pulls off without a fault.
Nicholson is great in this part because he portrays it in an especially dead on realistic fashion throughout. Due to this fact, his somewhat reactionary performance is simply amazing at times. I think in particularly strong moments are when it shows how much he really pity and feels for Larry. Two extremely powerful moments of this aspect are probably his reaction to seeing the inside of Larry's home, or when he really contemplates what will happen to Larry.
This performance is not all reactionary though, and since it is a 70's Nicholson performance this of course has some classic Nicholson moments. The best of is of course when he confronts the racist bar tender who won't serve Larry, and right after that scene where he proclaims his badassery. Nicholson just has an amazing visceral energy, that is incomparable, and just incredible to watch. It also always works in these performances though because each scene in these performances although distinctly Nicholson, also always makes them distinctly the character he is playing, because Nicholson most certianly is a complete bad ass as bad ass.
Nicholson performance is just an amazing piece of acting, because I felt I really did meet Bad Ass Budusky in this film, and spent time with him as he did this job, and attempted to teach, or show Larry something. It is a strong piece of work becuase he develops Budusky so smoothly, and never does he ever seem like he is acting, even in his scenes that only Jack Nicholson could possibly do. It amazing to see how Nicholson truly develops a unique characterization and manages to create an outstanding memorable character without ever having a single scene that is obviously written just to develop his character. This is a great achievement by Nicholson that is all there is to it.