The main draw of this amiable comedy-drama from director Hal Ashby and screenwriter Robert Towne is the great character performances from Jack Nicholson, Otis Young, and Randy Quaid. Beyond that, it's slow paced and just too long, never reaching the comedic or dramatic heights you expect it to. Often considered one of the classics of 70s American cinema, but it's really only a minor achievement.
The core agenda of any Hal Ashby film is rebellion and the struggle for freedom. Randy Quaid's Meadows is a meek sailor: he is compliant and fearful of living. On the other end of the spectrum are Jack Nicholson and Otis Young, both seemingly 'strong' men: loud and suspicious of The Man, yet ironically also programed to follow orders. Like Meadows, they too are prisoners. And try as they might, none can break free.