Hayes, the deep-voiced soul/funk musician who previously earned his blaxploitation bona fides with his Oscar-winning tune “Theme from Shaft,” made an easy transition to acting with Truck Turner. Even though he’s not the most persuasive thespian—in fact, his line deliveries range from phony to silly—he’s got such a strong natural presence, and such panache for investing dialogue with badass swagger, that his lack of real acting ability isn’t a hindrance. Simply put, the dude is cool. So, as the movie progresses, and as Turner’s pimpquest turns deadly, it’s tremendous fun to watch Hayes ice bad men and seduce good ladies.
Director Jonathan Kaplan, who was slowly working his way up the American International Pictures exploitation-movie food chain, exhibits a slick touch with action scenes and urban culture—Truck Turner is a cartoon, but it’s lively as hell. For instance, where else can viewers see Nichelle Nichols, better known as Lt. Uhura from the original Star Trek series, playing a tough madam? (Here’s Nichols describing her ladies: “These are all prime cut--$238,000 worth of dynamite. It’s Fort Knox in panties.”) And where else can viewers see Hayes square off with the powerful Yaphet Kotto, who plays Harvard Blue? Because, ultimately, Truck Turner is all about Hayes striking don’t-mess-with-this-motherfucker poses—he’s at his best when stripped to the waist, wearing just jeans and a shoulder holster, while blowing away hired killers with his cannon-sized .44 Magnum. Unsurprisingly, Hayes also provided the soundtrack for the movie, and his song titles give a good flavor of the movie’s down-and-dirty appeal: “Pursuit of the Pimpmoble,” “A House Full of Girls,” “Give It to Me,” and the extra-succinct “Drinking.”
Truck Turner: GROOVY