“If you live through this, tell Rostov it’s time to die.” -Matt Hunter
There are few actors in the history of Hollywood who have become a joke on the level of Chuck Norris. It’s likely that there’s an entire generous of youngsters out there who were mercifully born before the Walker Texas Ranger era (they don’t know how lucky they are) and only know Chuck through the jokes. Fair enough, Norris was never a great actor and quite frankly, his films generally ranked at the very bottom of the 80s/90s action pack (yes, even below Steven Seagal…it’s possible). They generally only appeal to viewers these days out of camp value, so approaching them only knowing Chuck Norris as a punchline is probably the best approach.
That being said, there is one slice of Chuck Norris sleaze that should be entered into the library of congress for posterity: Invasion U.S.A. A magical mixture of Chuck Norris and the lunatic Cannon Films at their most outrageous and successful, Invasion U.S.A. is one of the most insane, reckless, and explosive action movies made in a decade defined by such things. It deserves to sit on a shelf next to Commando and Cobra as the most ridiculous action movies co-authored by cocaine. It’s a camp classic in need of a larger cult and God willing Shout! Factory’s surprisingly stacked new Blu-ray will get Invasion U.S.A. in front of the eyeballs of trash movie lovers everywhere to cherish forever.
The whole shebang kicks off with a boatload full of Cuban refugees being murdered for the giant bags of cocaine they were secretly concealing. With that, the decidedly stupid and un-PC slice absurdity kicks off. 70s character Richard Lynch (Scarecrow) plays an evil terrorist who is either German or Russian. His ethnicity is unclear, but what is clear is that the guy hates America so much that he’s decided to launch a massive terrorist plot on Christmas (say what?!). For some reason, the target is Miami and his methods are ludicrously destructive and deadly. The plan was perfect except for one wild card: Chuck Norris. The guy happens to live in a nearby bayou, stretching out his days by wrestling alligators, playing with his chainsaw, and smiling at his pet armadillo (don’t worry, he only smiles once and manages to exclusively wear denim to make up for it). Big mistake.
So yeah, Invasion U.S.A. is about as dumb as 80s action flicks get and that’s also what makes it so damn awesome. The project came at the height of Cannon Films’ power, so even though the budget was low by Hollywood standards, it’s an epic by Cannon standards. The script was constructed around Miami locations found by director Joseph Zito (Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter) that could be completely destroyed. So, we’re treated to such sights as an entire suburban block being blown up by a bazooka house-by-house, a mall destruction scene that would make The Blues Brothers blush, tanks tearing up a downtown street, and various other acts of violence so insane that it’s almost an insult to cartoons to describe them as cartoony. Zito directs it all with his tongue unapologetically jammed in his cheek, so the laughs never stop and the action is relentless (in fact, the second half of the movie is basically just one action scene after another without any plot to get in the way). Makeup effects come from Tom Savini, so it all looks better than it has any right too. This is Cannon sleaze at it’s finest.
Of course, you can’t lay praise onto the stupendous stupidity of Invasion U.S.A. without honouring good ol’ Chuck. Fresh off of a Friday The 13th movie, Joseph Zito essentially shoots his star like a horror villain. The guy appears in the nightmares of his nemesis and tends to appear out of nowhere at the perfect time to stop the baddies with the perfect one-liner ready to go (highlight: “I’m gonna hit you with so many rights, you’re gonna beg for a left.”). He does his own stunts, hanging off of the side of a truck while crashing through a mall and standing perilously close to various unchecked explosions. Good ol’ Chuck doesn’t bother with any sort of emotion. There’s no need. He just scours until he needs to kick someone in the face or fire two uzis at once. It’s not exactly a good performance by any conventional judgement of acting. However, as a silent, stoic, 80s action stereotype, Norris under-acts to perfection.
Your appreciation of Invasion U.S.A. (or a lack thereof) will all come down to expectations. Are you looking for a compelling story, realistic acting, or anything resembling a message? Then don’t waste your time. However, if you’re looking for an absolutely batshit collection of meaningless gore, outrageous explosions, laugh-out-loud dumbell dialogue, and Chuck Norris at his most robotically uncharismatic, then you just hit the jackpot. Invasion U.S.A. is the platonic ideal of a stupid 80s action movie. Anyone trying to parody the form can only dream to deliver something this hysterical and overblown. It’s a movie that deserves a prominent place in any bad movie aficionado’s collection. God bless Shout! Factory for making this Blu-ray happen. No one else would have dared.
First up, it has to be said that Shout! Factory have done a wonderful job scrubbing up Invasion U.S.A. for Blu-ray. Sure, the flick has the muddy colors of the mid-80s, but the studio have retained that aesthetic and delivered the best HD presentation possible. Details are clear and depth is impressive, leading to all of those pretty explosions and bloody crowd scenes popping right off the screen. Toss in a glorious new lossless 5.1 soundtrack and you’ve got a cornball Chuck Norris flick that’ll crush any home theater system until it’s begging for forgiveness.
Sadly Chuck Norris didn’t make it to the special feature section, which is a real shame. Beyond that, it’s hard to complain though. This is one of the finest collections of hilariously honest Shout! Factory special features to date. First up screenwriter James Bruner pops up for a 30-minute chat about the ludicrous nature of writing for Cannon. He spins tales of being assigned screeplays based on a presold title without a plot, admitting that Invasion U.S.A. was initially written as American Ninja until the producers liked it enough to make it another bigger movie and still make American Ninja on the side. It’s a crazy trip, right up to and including how Bruner was called down to set at the end of production to rewrite the ending on the fly when the producers realized what they had made approximately zero sense.
Next up is an even more candidly hilarious chat with Tom Savini and his assistants at the time Howard Berger and Greg Nicotero (who have gone on to become even bigger stars in the make up effects world than their mentor). Amusingly, they barely talk about their work on the film, instead focusing on amazing side stories like accidentally leaving a few gelatine legs out to melt by a hotel pool and a cautionary tale of why no one should leave an infant in the care of two metalhead makeup dudes in their 20s. Finally Joseph Zito provides a jovial commentary track, mixing wonderful true production tales (including how he talked those home owners into the explosions) and open mockery of the movie he made many moons ago.
Does This Deserve a Spot on Your Dork Shelf?
For folks who enjoy so-bad-they’re-awesome movies and unbelievable behind the scenes tales of those ridiculous productions, this Invasion U.S..A. disc is absolute nirvana. Buy it immediately and enjoy all the hours of guilty pleasure.