Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Truck Turner (1974)

"Who's the black bounty hunter
That's a sex machine to all the chicks?
You're damn right.

Who is the man
That would risk his neck for his brother man?
Can you dig it?"

Yes, although this is a movie all about a bounty hunter named Truck Turner (played by Isaac Hayes) it's really just a great blaxploitation flick that keeps Hayes as close to the Shaft persona (played by Richard Roundtree, but arguably made more famous thanks to that great theme sung by Hayes) as possible while throwing in everything else that will keep audiences happy: a great cast, plenty of violence, some gratuitous nudity and a script full of gems. The fact that many scenes end with a punchline or laughter akin to the end of each Police Squad episode makes it all the better.

Here's the plot. Truck Turner is an ex-football player who is now the toughest bounty hunter going. He's like Dog the bounty hunter, except for the fact that he's black, unsympathetic to anyone he catches and quick with his fists and gun. So he's not like Dog at all, I suppose, but they do at least share the same vocation. When Truck takes a big pimp out of action he ends up in a whole heap of trouble when a madam named Dorinda (Nichelle Nichols) puts a big price on his head. All guns are aimed at Truck, but perhaps the biggest threat comes from the cool and calculating Harvard Blue (Yaphet Kotto).

Oscar Williams and Michael Allin may have written the script and Jonathan Kaplan may have been sitting in the director's chair, but this movie belongs to Hayes. The man owns his central role, whether he's blasting holes in baddies or seducing women away from their fried chicken (no, I'm not being racist for the sake of a cheap gag, that ACTUALLY happens), and he's also responsible for a soundtrack so funky that it may have been playing during the conception of Prince.

Mind you, let's not dismiss everyone else so quickly. Alan Weeks is good fun as Jerry, Truck's partner and good friend, and it's always nice to see the likes of Scatman Crothers and Dick Miller, even if they don't get a lot of screentime. Annazette Chase plays Annie AKA Truck's woman and does fine with her role, but the woman turning heads is Nichelle Nichols. What would Captain Kirk say if he saw/heard Lt. Uhura looking and speaking as she does in this? It's certainly a lot better than her appearance years later in the dull horror movie, The Supernaturals. Yaphet Kotto is fantastic from the moment he appears to his very final scene, the man was at the top of his game in the '70s in my opinion.

There are one or two genuinely decent action sequences, though some moments are marred by entertainingly incongruous fashion choices, and even an impressive early use of a technique (SnorriCam) that has become quite commonplace in recent years, but those don't add enough to make it a great film. It is, however, a good one and fans of blaxploitation movies should certainly love it.



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