Cal kicks-off a warm-up for The Expendables 2 with a Chuck Norris “classic.”
Who made it?: Joseph Zito (Director), James Bruner, Chuck Norris (Writers), Yoram Globus, Menahem Golan (Producers), Cannon Films.
Who’s in it?: Chuck Norris, Richard Lynch, Melissa Prophet, Alexander Zale, Alex Colon, Eddie Jones, Billy Drago.
Tagline: ”America wasn’t ready…but HE was!”
IMDb rating: 4.8/10.
Chuck Norris, it would seem, is America’s leading brand of all-purpose pest control. Whether it be Russians, mobsters, thieves, ninjas or Satan himself, the bearded superhero possesses the ability to save America from every threat that rears its unpleasant head. 1985′s Invasion U.S.A. is a prime example of what the Chuckster can achieve when left to his own devices. Utilising an impressive array of weaponry to dispense his own patented style of vigilante justice, the lethal hero works to protect America from hundreds of heavily armed Russian soldiers who have unexpectedly stormed the country’s sandy shores. They must not have seen Red Dawn (1984).
Following the plot (if you will) of Invasion U.S.A. shouldn’t be difficult whatsoever. It’s as basic, generic and pedestrian as they come, allowing even the terminally stupid to enjoy the proceedings without ever being required to overextend their limited intelligence. Basically, an army of Russian terrorists led by Soviet agent Mikhail Rostov (Richard Lynch) invade America. Meanwhile, Mr. Norris stars as ex-federal agent/karate expert/alligator wrangler Matt Hunter, who’s asked to take down Rostov and company by the agency he formerly worked for (leading to a “We really need you this time” scene). Initially he declines, but (as you’d expect from a mid-80s action flick) the bad guy makes the common mistake of taking a bazooka to Hunter’s home and killing his friend. Thus, the stage is set for one man against hundreds… and this is fine, because it’s 1985 – it’s the time of Stallone, Schwarzenegger, and the one-man army genre.
What ensues is a full-scale (in Miami at least) attack on American civilians as Rostov’s troops take to the streets with weapons aplenty (their preferred choice of human destruction being the trusty rocket launcher). The National Guard eventually shows up to control the civil unrest and defend the streets (though not effectively). The backdrop of Invasion U.S.A. is the grand standoff between the USA and the USSR, but the story more or less only amounts to a local mano-a-mano grudge-match between Hunter and Rostov. The thought-process behind Rostov’s decision to seek vengeance upon Hunter is murky, but it has something to do with Rostov being unable to get a good night’s sleep.
Did I mention Hunter is psychic? I should have, ’cause he is. Whenever the terrorists are about to strike, Hunter shows up to spoil their efforts and kick ass. The script (co-written by Chuck himself) provides an ample amount of these situations, with the simplicity of the plot, characters, and production values reflected in Hunter’s terse catchphrase “It’s time to die.” For sure, Invasion U.S.A. is astonishingly bare-bones, but it’s entertaining to watch while the film alternates between scenes of terrorist nastiness and of Hunter doing cool, manly things. Norris occasionally speaks (“If you come back in here, I’m gonna hit you with so many rights, you’re gonna beg for a left”), but the film’s key focus is on the action set-pieces. Shit continually explodes and the body count continues to rise, reaffirming that Chuck Norris – and, by extension, America – is not to be fucked with.
The consistent tactic of Invasion U.S.A. is to build sympathy for helpless stock characters (like two lovers on the beach or a family erecting their Christmas tree on an idyllic suburban block) before they’re mercilessly slaughtered by the terrorists. Therefore, when the Chuckster kills the terrorists responsible for this massacre, we cheer and applaud.
By the time he starred in Invasion U.S.A., Norris had appeared in movies for over a decade. However, he still hadn’t picked up on the whole acting thing yet. The key requirement for a one-man army is to not only remain calm and confident under pressure, but to be careful not to demonstrate a huge array of facial expressions – one expression does nicely, and two is a bit of a stretch. For most of this film, Norris sports a very bland facial expression. He only smiles twice – when he sees his pet armadillo acting stupid, and when he’s watching an old black and white film on TV (a 1953 sci-fi picture called… Invasion USA!).
The plot’s straightforward nature is also mirrored by Norris’ wardrobe. He’s simply a bearded action hero dressed in blue jeans, a low-buttoned denim shirt, duel leather shoulder holsters, black gloves and (most importantly) an Uzi for each hand. It has become the iconic image of Norris.
Richard Lynch seems to be having a blast playing the mastermind behind the slaughter, delivering a thick layer of faux Russian cheese that will either leave you amused or offended.
Now… flaws? Sure, there are heaps. Invasion U.S.A. had the potential to be a truly epic action film, but budgetary constraints mar this potential. Trucks are shown heading to several American locations, yet the action is restricted to Miami. The abrupt ending will leave you wanting so much more. Naturally the dialogue is usually flat as well. In addition, the whole thing is cheesy, stupid, preposterous and often hilarious (intentional or otherwise).
As the decades roll by, there will always be a place for gormless action movies like these. They act as fun reminders of an era during which the intellectual appetites and expectations for Hollywood actioners were at an all-time low. Invasion U.S.A. is a perfectly entertaining guilty pleasure. They just don’t make ambitiously cheesy movies like this any more.
Chuck takes out the trash while war rages on outside. SPOILERS.
- Whoopi Goldberg was Chuck Norris’s first choice to play the female journalist. Director Joseph Zito disagreed, and cast someone else.
- Until recently (2007), Invasion U.S.A. was MGM’s second highest selling home video title behind Gone with the Wind (1939).
- Zito also directed Red Scorpion (1988) featuring Expendables 2 co-star Dolph Lundgren.