Truck Turner

You're a dirty down-low bastard
★★
☆☆☆☆
Released: 
1974
Director: 
Jonathan Kaplan
Starring: 
Isaac Hayes, Yaphet Kotto, Alan Weeks, Annazette Chase, Nichelle Nichols
The Setup: 
Isaac Hayes is a skip tracer who draws the ire of the local pimp and hustla community.
Discussion: 

This is one of those movies that I was SO in the mood for one night, then endured the heartbreak of discovering that the disc Netflix sent me was snapped in half, then sent it back and had to wait another week—during which time my desire to watch it skyrocketed—then finally got it and watched it and eh, it was fine.

This is a blaxploitation movie starring Isaac Hayes, who as you recall did the famous music for Shaft. I don’t know what the story is, but I assume someone somewhere thought “Well, Hayes is cool himself… we could put him in a movie and have him do the music for it and that would be SYNERGY!” So after the simple, reassuring AIP logo appears on screen, we start right in with the ‘Truck Turner Theme,’ which is a virtual rewrite of the Shaft theme—long into of wah-wah guitars and horns and strings making very similar-sounding music, then the lyrics: “There’s some dudes in a bar with busted heads and broken jaws. Who done hit ‘em? TRUCK TURNER! There’s some pimps in their graves… who blew those pimps away? TRUCK TURNER!” While this [and the credits] are going on we have a montage of L.A. street scenes, which seems random at first, but is actually very carefully done. We start with modern office buildings representing the fast-track life [circa 1974], then consciously move across the tracks to where the homeless are, with pictures of pawn brokers and blood banks, and then a whole section on bail bond offices, one with a funny sign that says “I’ll get you out if it takes ten years!”

Now this sweetie Jerry, who is Truck’s partner, calls him to get out of bed to go do some work. Truck’s house is a mess, with multiple beer cans on his bedside table. Truck and Jerry are “Skip Tracers,” guys who track down people who have jumped bail. Anyway, before he leaves, Truck says hello to his little kitty, then discovered that the cat pissed on his only clean shirt! And then he wears it anyway, which is noticed by Jerry, who says “You just a foul-smellin’ N---.” By the way, Truck also has a SWEET patchwork denim jacket. And somewhere in here I looked at Jerry and thought “You know, I bet he’s gonna die 2/3rds of the way through.”

Then Truck visits his girlfriend in jail. She is about to be released the next day. Then he entices Jerry to drive his girlfriend’s car really fast, but disowns any responsibility when he gets pulled over. This is where one begins to notice the strains of comedy that lace this movie; weird funny things like the cat piss, but also a theme that Truck is always getting his friends in trouble.

So there’s an awesome knock-down, drag-out chase scene after a pink Cadillac in which both cars get super smashed up. At one point we see the wheel of the pink car being chased blows out, and in the next shot it has miraculously repaired itself. You will also notice a quick scene in which a Hasidic Jew is pushing along a shopping cart filled to the rim with bagels. Anyway, they get their man, who is this notorious pimp.

Then Truck goes off to pick up his girlfriend from jail. She’s pissed that he is late, and he never explains that he was chasing some massive bail jumper that’ll net him $1,000. They repair back to her apartment, where you will notice [above] that she has a poster of a Vermeer. I mean, she’s obviously just SO into 17th-century Dutch painting. She’s pissed and was complaining about how hungry she is, and makes a crack about how all he probably wants to do is get laid, so it doesn’t quite sit right when a second later he is literally taking food out of her mouth so they can get it on. The movie means this to be all sensual, but this is about the time when I started thinking; “You know, this guy Truck is kind of a total asshole.”

So it’s like this: The guy pimp Truck and Jerry had the car chase with had control of a brothel run by Dorinda, who is portrayed by NICHELLE NICHOLS OF STAR TREK. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, if you ever wanted to see Uhura as a badass hooker madam [and you do], here’s your chance. She’s actually quite awesome in the role. So now that the one guy is dead, control of Dorinda’s biz is up for grabs and, it being impossible that she could just run the business herself, all the other pimps come calling to wrest control over it. So Dorinda [I wonder if Dorinda like Doritos], who is pissed that Truck shot her daddy, tells all the pimps—including Yaphet Kotto as Blue, the baddest pimp around—that if they kill Truck they can have her business. So now Truck has the whole underworld after him.

So Dorinda is a fierce ho-house mama, always calling her girls “bitch” and keeping them in their place. She tells Blue that he “looks cute” and he responds “The Lord himself couldn’t look better. Bitch, I have money!” I like Blue because his thugs have facial hair and wear leather pants. So blah, blah, blah, a few of the other pimps come after Truck and he blows them away Did I mention that he and Jerry took on a whole bar full of thugs and won? Yeah.

SPOILERS > > >
So Blue’s men take over the police office and has the chief officer there, established as Truck’s friend, call Truck at like 3 in the morning and ask him to come in. Truck simply calls Jerry and tells HIM to go in. Jerry gets wickedly killed, his stand-in mannequin really blown away by the gunfire. And then we have to start wondering if Truck knew this, and sent Jerry on purpose. I assume that we’re not, but this thing is so loose it opens itself to interpretation, and Truck never shows the slightest glimmer of remorse over his best friend’s death.

So it’s getting to be showdown time. Truck and his GF come home to find the place ransacked and the kitty hung [no more pissed-on shirts!], although the thugs did leave the Vermeer untouched. Then Truck goes to visit the police chief, who barely survived the beating Blue’s men gave him, in the hospital, wherein there is a hospital shootout. This is all in the spirit of naughty fun of this movie, as they walk into operating rooms while procedures are in progress, shoot out blood bags, etc. Then Blue gets it, and Truck goes over to Dorinda’s. This scene is obviously there because the audience wants to see her get shot, but we need an excuse to shoot a woman in cold blood—like say if she had a gun! She does, and she says “You ain’t gonna kill no woman,” before she gets blown away. This is supposed to be cheekily naughty, but it comes with such an undercurrent of sadism, a tough woman who tried to run her own business and run with the big boys, that it really comes off as punishment for women who don’t know their place. The end.
< < < SPOILERS END

It started well, and was certainly amusing for the first half, but got really boring as predictable scenes went on far too long in the second half. This movie is obviously attempting to have Truck be a little harder, nastier hero than in most blaxploitation movies, and is trying to have Truck be a lovable bastard who always gets his friends in trouble, but it kind of backfires as these character traits go too far and he starts coming off as a selfish, remorseless fucking bastard. The naughty sense of humor of the movie, appreciated at first, also begins to offend as it demonstrates that it doesn’t understand the line between ribbing and sadism. By the time this was winding down I was really just waiting for it to end and afterward had an unpleasant memory of the whole thing. This director went on to direct Over the Edge and The Accused, by the way. If you want to watch a blaxploiter with an off-kilter sense of humor and a bastardy main character that manages to stay engaging and inviting throughout, watch Cool Breeze.

Should you watch it: 

You could do worse, but then again there are so many better blaxploitation movies out there.