Truck Turner (1974):

Isaac Hayes is Mack "Truck" Turner, so nicknamed for his affinity for "busted heads and broken jaws," sung about in the opening credits, a rousing production of its own, as with many a blaxploitation job. Jonathan Kaplan tilts down from a glassy Los Angeles edifice in the distance to a homeless man crouching over trash the foreground, but the flourishes are less political than aesthetic, details penciled into rushed sketches -- the camera finds a vinyl record of "the Immortal Otis Redding" on the counter before moving over to the bed where Hayes sleeps, gun holster strapped to bare ebony torso. He and pal Alan Weeks are a "couple of negro bounty hunters," according to one redneck cop; he's later tagged "Jesse James," and then a "slice of chocolate cake" by the whistling women at the salon where Nichelle Nichols reigns as pendulous madam. Her fella, a pimp and bail-jumper called Gator (Paul Harris), is Hayes' next target, triggering the central chase, spiked with slow-mo and zooms; a funeral attended by other macks and tricks follows, Yaphett Kotto materializing, with cane and blue-suited elegance, to spit into the coffin, the camera suddenly taking the corpse's POV. Nichols offers her stable of girls (one is named Turnpike, "cuz you gotta pay to get on and pay to get off") as payment for vengeance, a "bucket of blood" -- speaking of which, Dick Miller turns up as a sample of Kaplan's feeling for bit-player vividness (others include Scatman Crothers, Charles Cyphers and Stan Shaw). Weeks is blown away by mistake by Kotto's bunch of hitmen, and blurry focus tightening into a tracking shot into Hayes walking toward the lenses in the hospital visualizes the hero as "a bulldog with eyes up his ass;" payback time, the barrel of his gun foreshortened diagonally across the screen into a cannon as elongated as Dirty Harry's. An erudite piece, with splashy action leaving plenty of room for Nichols' vigorous bitching, a Gauguin framed on a bail bonds office, and Hayes using beer to romance his honey, who expected flowers. With Annazette Chase, and Sam Laws.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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