Whichever way you look at it, there were two things in the 1980's that when fused together made possibly the greatest cinematic concoction known to mankind: Chuck Norris and Cannon Films.The latter created some of the biggest guilty pleasures of my childhood from the ultra rare Robotech: The Movie to the gleefully dumb American Ninja series. Chuck Norris on the other hand is... well you know the drill. Invasion U.S.A. is the culmination of every Reaganite action movie cliche complete with a low budget, ridiculous body count and of course the Chuckernator complete with bombastic musical score. If that isn't enough to make you want to track down this neglected classic already, prepare to be enlightened.
We begin this Cold War era odyssey with a rickety little ship carrying Cuban immigrants, wandering through the waves hoping to reach America. After one of the kids moans for a bit about how great the whole place is, a patrol boat sporting the US flag drifts along seemingly ready with open arms for the desperate refugees. All is not well though, as soon as the haggered civilians step on board they are immediately massacred by our main antagonist Rostov (Richard Lynch). You can tell he is evil thanks to the subtle traits he has including being a little weedy as well as being Russian, figures. After one of his lackeys raids the boat for cocaine, we abruptly are smacked in the face with the manliest title card ever written with Jay Chattaway's roaring wails of trumpets inspiring our audience to kill 'dem Commies.
But to ensure the audience gets their daily supply of chinbeard, Chuck arrives on the scene in no doubt the single most awe inspiring vehicle ever driven... an airboat. Do these things still exist? What makes these credits so freaking epic is the fact that not only is Chuck riding a vehicle I have never seen in real life, but he is wearing an open denim jacket as his facial hair blows in the wind. Even a bird can be seen desperately trying to get away from the ungodly levels of testosterone, now that's an achievement. We cut to two cops assigned to investigate a docked US patrol boat which is conveniently stockpiled with a ton of corpses weirdly all dressed now in white briefs. Don't ask. A lone female reporter complete with no name and a hell of an 80's haircut (I shall name her Frizz) approaches the cops, pestering them for evidence. Naturally because this is probably the only female character with any semblance of development in this patriarchal epic, she is ignored by everybody.
Now you are probably wondering what kind of character Chuck Norris plays, a CIA agent named Matt Hunter who just so happens to be good at martial arts. Basically himself. We see him with a tanned wrinkly dude named John Eagle trying to trap an alligator, no reason really other than to show Chuck is a true man. Grrr. As if the structure of this movie wasn't already a little dodgy we follow Rostov handing over a stash of drugs to Billy Drago in his early days before Delta Force 2. After signing the deal as well as securing enough guns to make John Woo blush, Rostov jams a snorting tube up a hooker and chucks her out of a window in one hell of a spontaneous killing. Hell, he even gives Drago the worst ball busting imaginable before buggering off elsewhere.
After another brief scene of Chuck expressing his distaste for frogs (no terrible racial pun intended), we see a beady-eyed CIA agent travel to Chuck's remote house in alligator country not via helicopter but by a wooden boat with paddles. Chuck apparently also attended the acting school of Michael Myers as he gives the agent a jump scare complete with string movement; the lackey informs Chuck that Rostov is back and requests for his fists of justice. He refuses stating that 'now he's your problem.'
Rostov meanwhile flashbacks to the last time he met Chuck, while taking aim at a random group of diplomats our hero promptly appears to kick the guy in the face while declaring 'it's time to die'. He wakes up covered in sweat as his counterpart Nico enters the room reassuring him that their diabolical plan (if you don't know, read the title of the movie again) will go unscathed; this displeases our leader as he orders for an airboat patrol (two words that in any normal person should induce giggling fits) to be sent to eliminate our grizzled hero as he chainsaws his way threw some logs and grins at his pet armadillo (?). The villains 'conspicuously' move towards the house, but just before they blow the house to hell John Eagle stumbles upon the team and takes out one with a double barreled shotgun but his victory is short lived. Chuck however is psychic and jumps through a nearby window as the house is razed to the ground by a hail of gunfire. Now the only honourable thing for Chuck to do is REVENGE, so he sets his friend's body on fire in the house and drives off in his pickup truck for great justice. Rostov and Niko are seen sitting in a bar on the beach whispering in front of hundreds of people (did I mention this film is based at Christmas?) reciting their plan for Western domination, which promptly edits to a frolicking young couple getting murdered by Niko for the hell of it. Then suddenly all credibility disappears as thousands of terrorists sprint from D-day landing craft to a convoy of armoured trucks. No, seriously this is what happens and it's meant to be taken seriously. What makes this even more stupendously retarded is that Rostov states that '18 hours from now... America will be a very different place.' This movie already makes Rambo as sophisticated as the average Tom Clancy novel.
Chuck finally succumbs to the CIA agents request for help in defeating Rostov, after learning along with the cops about the beachhead landing the night before. The police at this moment in time are of course, fairly nonchalant that several thousand terrorists have just decided to up and start committing mass murder. Hell even Frizz looks past all this to refer to the stoic Chuck as 'cowboy', I guess she is good at making jokes for me. Rostov finally begins his own journey of blowing random shit up by stopping by a nearby suburb as kids are placing stars on Christmas trees and jocks shag gender-ambiguous looking chicks. Naturally all this kitschy happiness makes his blood boil so he cleans up the place with a rocket launcher, firing six times without even having to reload. Some solemn music then plays out to... hey a party full of vaguely foreign people. Yep, naturally Rostov hates Hispanics and Mexicans too so he sends two guys in cop disguises to blow them away; those that survive including Frizz decide to take their subtitled range out on other cops. Oh noes anarchy! Chuck cruises in his pickup truck sampling the many delights of the city's nightlife including hookers screaming 'fuck you!', pimps in white pajamas and thugs with Motley Crue haircuts jumping on the bonnet. Stopping off at a bar to break a bottle in a random guy's hands (you know because it is not obvious to the audience already that Chuck is manly yet), he meets an old friend and gets a lead on Rostov and his men. As being the world's most dickish terrorist is just SO tiring, Rostov along with Nico relax at the beach marveling at their crimes. A wrapped present is given to one of Rostov's thugs could it be... a bomb?! Another of Rostov's men who looks like the late Richard Pryor with the face of a chipmunk, swaggers through a strip bar looking for hookers. After acquiring one and chucking her onto the bed, Chuck springs from the void between space and time (literally, I have no idea where he came from) promptly impaling the guy's left hand with a knife. After threatening two inflated musclemen about 'hitting you with so many rights you will be asking for a left', Chuck leaves the guy with a grenade to tell Rostov that it's time to die. Rostov learns of Chuck's appearance and gives his bewildered cohort a ball busting, his partner Nico desperately trying to reassure him that the plan will succeed without further problems.
Remember that present bomb from earlier? well the Hugh Laurie lookalike terrorist brings it into a nearby mall full of what else? Innocents doing their Christmas shopping of course, several of them are blown up and gunned down in slow-mo just to make the audience gasp in horror at the Commie atrocities. Anyway, Chuck bursts through with his pickup truck Uzis blazing even nailing one terrorist standing conveniently still for his truck to run him down. Soon after, evil Hugh Laurie grabs the brand new Nissan pickup truck conveniently placed in the mall and drives off with a female hostage. Chuck races after them with Frizzy who popped out of nowhere (everyone seems omnipresent in this movie and just steps in when they fell like it) along for the ride. Cue such exciting set pieces including driving past a football game and will the hostage's panties tear as Frizz tries to grab her? Naturally the villains car tumbles and explodes thanks to a well placed grenade.
Seeing as how most of this movie at this moment in time follows a pattern of 'Terrorists do stuff and Chuck makes them pay', I will sum up the next few scenes for you:
* National Guard is summoned to deal with terrorist threat set to loud patriotic music, naturally some of them are disguised terrorists and Chuck blows them away learning more about Rostov's whereabouts.
* Rostov tries to blow up a church in the middle of prayer with a briefcase bomb, Chuck disarms it flinging it back at them and making it go boom.
* Frizzy is attacked by Nico's disguised National Guard squad. Chuck sneaks behind Nico and for whatever reason makes him shoot himself by just grabbing the top of his gun. Frizzy is not too grateful throwing a bin lid at his head and labeling him a 'creep'.
* Chuck stops a few goons from blowing up a school bus full of children with timed C4, he chucks the explosive right back at them. Note that just as the car explodes, nobody is in it indicating that Chuck did not only kill them, but sent them to the magical dimension known as continuity screw-ups.
* The manliness level reaches fever point as Chuck finds a ruined fairground where some terrorists actually managed to kill some kids set to some sorrowful trumpet wails. The CIA agent from earlier warns him of the risk of his vendetta against Rostov to which he replies: 'Think of the stakes.' Yum.
* Chuck is promptly arrested by the police charged with being a vigilante and that 'nobody is beyond the law.' Audience groans.
After being escorted to the National Guard HQ (I guess), Frizz gives some uplifting pep talk to Chuck and promptly disappears from the movie completely. Rostov watching the news on three separate televisions marveling at his handiwork stumbles on a live interview with Chuck relaying the news: 'It will be time to die.' Rostov in yet another fit of rage smashes the TV and orders his troops to make the final push against Chuck. Nailing a few bumbling cops, Rostov steals AN ENTIRE DEPOT of armoured trucks. He succeeds in navigating to the National Guard HQ roof in a chopper as his ground forces drive through the incredibly wide open barriers. The raid begins as the terrorists shoot in a fit of rage at everything they see: papers, fish tanks, water canisters, paintings, they don't care as long as stuff sparkles and their grins are garishly comical. Rostov after around five minutes realises that this is a set up and promptly orders a retreat.
Too bad though that the National Guard has turned up right on their doorstop with several hundred troopers complete with M-60s and tanks. The odds aren't good for our ambitious Russian moron. Suddenly because the plot says so with no explanation as to how he escaped capture, Chuck has followed Rostov to the building decimating his copter ride and massacres the rest of his troops with his trademark Uzis and kicks to the face. In one hilarious scene, two baddies hunker behind the walls of a room as Chuck arms an M4 with grenade launcher. Knowing that there are two guys there, Chuck fires but through the powers of 'I don't know how physics work' he makes gaping holes in the wall defeating them. Last time I recall, I am sure grenades are supposed to BLOW UP rather than leave just holes. But I digress, Rostov completely loses it and starts spraying the room where Chuck is like a ten year old on his first game of Call of Duty. All the while our hunk of manbeard taunts him to the edge of a window as he runs out of ammo and switches to a rocket launcher knowing full well that his plan is doomed. After a long display of fireworks and people falling over, the terrorists surrender and the soldiers holler in victory. But now for Chuck it's redemption time, pulling a rocket launcher out of his ass (may as well be) he aims at Rostov. The clicking sound of the launcher freezing Rostov in his place. 'It's time.' Chuck's words activate Rostov's last defence mechanism: a scream that sounds like a cat being run over. He aims his rocket launcher but is too late as Chuck fires in the nick of time, incinerating his foe as a slow-mo shot shows his innards fly out the window. Our grizzled hero throws down the empty weapon as the booming trumpets lead us into the credits. Invasion U.S.A. is a movie that for me defines trashy American 80's action movies and therefore much of my early teenhood. The plotline is so patriotic and jingoistic you could have mistaken it for one of John Wayne's 'yellow peril' movies. Much of the story is so inconsequential that much of the film feels like a partly stringed together series of vignettes featuring Chuck Norris being a badass. The acting naturally for the most part is either stoic (Chuck), hokey (Frizzy) or just downright bonkers (Rostov) not exactly helped by a script partly written by Chuck himself. Because of the laughably nonexistent Reaganite plotting, the hammy action is almost non-stop with a body count easily rivaling the later Rambo films and maybe even some of John Woo's work. In my eyes, Invasion U.S.A. is the film that beer and pizza was made for. Don't listen to critics, this film is a bonafide trash masterpiece.
- Levels of manliness: The equivalent of Charles Bronson hurling a t-shirt into space.
- Levels of Reaganite politics: Enough to make a redneck squeal in delight.
- Do I regret enjoying this movie? Nope.
-Oli, 12 March 2010 (original date)
Review source: UK DVD
Screenshot source: UK DVD