5.06.2011

Three Honkies: Truck Turner (Kaplan, 1974)

Hide your mommas! Jonathan Kaplan follows up his 1973 Jim Brown vehicle "The Slams" with '74's energetic "Truck Turner" in which "Isaac Hayes, the big brother of soul, [makes] a new kind of music… and it's mean jive." Hayes' laid back, well-rounded lead earns his bread as a skip tracer and makes his way by orchestrating destruction to his benefit. A respect for equal morality is his driving purpose, not letting potential advantages of post-Civil Rights blackness become an excuse, but that doesn't mean foulmouthed whiteys ain't getting their due in the meantime.

I feel as though "Truck Turner" is a lesser-known flick, and now that I've seen it I can't understand why. Without a single dull moment it's a perfectly paced, highly energetic wad of baadasssssery with a chemical supporting cast including Yaphet Kotto, Nichelle Nichols, Alan Weeks, Sam Laws and Scatman Crothers, all thoroughly humorous in their up tight characterizations. Even the love interest's pet cat has impeccable comic timing. The story, more or less about Truck taking out pushers so fly they could have saved Pan-Am, doesn't come spoonfed or in a particularly formulaic manner. The cinematography coolly cuts between careful composition and guerilla-style handheld as Hayes' score (you know it) echoes "Shaft" while defining itself in its own right (any "Kill Bill" fan will recognize the main theme from the Bride's pre-toe-wiggling hospital escape). The parade of open-shirted hot chocolate (with sprinkles of macadamia) just about rivals King George's feisty harem from "Coffy". Rob Zombie fans will recognize Nichols' line, "I want you to come out there and shake your asses, proper, y'hear? Now get out there and make it look good!" from "Dead Girl Superstar" off "The Sinister Urge". Put simply, there's a lot here to love.

And as if that wasn't enough, the action takes no prisoners. An early car chase complete with an unnecessary explosion sees the chased seeming to purposefully take out everything in his path including fire hydrants, flower stands and Jewish bagel carts. The climactic hospital confrontation goes out-and-out insane with child patients as hostages, doctors pulling pistols and a shootout across an in-use birthing suite.

If you're a blaxploitation fan or one of the uninitiated toying with unassured curiosity, wanting to see what it's all about without risking a haphazardly built film that merely gets by on soul, you can't go wrong with "Truck Turner".

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