By now we all know Isaac Hayes has left his role as “Chef” on South Park, and so all eyes are on what he’s going to do next. Now, he could go back to making records and writing film scores. He could do more commercials for potato chips. But might I suggest a sequel to his 1974 film “Truck Turner”? It’s the movie where Isaac Hayes steps out of the soundtrack and into the action. And while it’s got a lot of the trappings of your run of the mill blaxploitation film, it’s more than just a Superfly knockoff starring the guy who wrote the theme from “Shaft.” It’s “Truck Turner,” and if you’ll pardon my ridiculous movie critic pun, this Truck is no ordinary ride.
Who’s the cat that won’t cop out when there’s danger all about? Truck Turner’s cat.
Now a typical action flick starts with a bang – the hero beats up some bad guys, or sits in a hot tub with a lady friend in a bikini, or does some advanced weapons training in some exotic locale. “Truck Turner,” on the other hand, starts the movie by arguing with his cat, who’s just peed on his last clean shirt. As ridiculous as this sounds, it does help this movie stand out from your typical gritty blaxploitation flick starring an athletic great like Jim Brown or Jim Kelly. And, really, how could it be anything else? Isaac Hayes looks like a musician, not a tough guy, when he’s beating people down. So the movie wisely plays to Hayes’ strengths and emphasizes style over substance. There’s lots of shots of Truck strutting around carrying big guns, or driving cool cars, or sweet-talking his lady. There’s also a scene where a naked woman inexplicably stabs Truck’s partner with a pair of scissors, but this movie isn’t perfect.
Captain, now opening all swearing frequencies.
Even plot takes a back seat to style here. Truck and his partner get into a gun battle with a pimp who skipped bail, and the pimp’s girlfriend Dorinda hires some crooks to rub Truck out in revenge. That’s about it. This girlfriend, by the way, is played by Nichelle Nichols- yes, Lieutenant Uhura from Star Trek. Dorinda is nasty and angry and she likes it that way, and it makes her really fun to watch. Quite simply, she wants Truck dead for killing her man, and whoever rubs him out gets her stable of ladies. This leads to a series of somewhat goofy attempts on Truck’s life. Guys attacking Truck on his way back from the grocery store, attacking in the stairway of his apartment building, even attacking at the hospital while Truck’s visiting a friend!
Shaken, not stirred.
And maybe that’s really the point of this one. Truck Turner doesn’t take itself too seriously, and so rather than wondering why the villainous Blue, played by Yaphet Kotto, knocks over guys in wheelchairs and shoots out IV bags in a manner that’s more “Three Stooges” than “Three the Hard Way,” or why Truck tries to win over his girlfriend with drive thru and a six-pack of beer, it’s more fun to just enjoy the weird-ass ride that is this movie. Just keep an eye out for angry, gun-wielding pimps along the way.