Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus found their cash cow. After Chuck Norris got revenge for the United States losing the Vietnam War in Missing in Action, Golan and Globus wasted no time locking up Chuck to a multi-picture deal at The Cannon Group. Invasion U.S.A. was the first picture under that deal, and it’s just as over the top and stupid as anything else from the Cannon stable. But it also has a mean-spiritedness that will try the viewer.
Directed by shitty filmmaker extraordinaire Joseph Zito, working from a screenplay by James Bruner and Chuck Norris himself, Invasion U.S.A. tells the story of a Soviet commando invasion of the Southeastern United States, and Chuck’s efforts to thwart them.
Chuck plays Matt Hunter, a former CIA field agent who has retired to an isolated cabin in the Florida Everglades. How isolated is it? Hunter has no driveway. He has to take a fan boat out of the Everglades whenever he wants to go to the grocery store. Hunter definitely does not wish to be disturbed.
Meanwhile, the Soviets are on their way. They are led by Richard Lynch as the dastardly Mikhail Rostov. He and his operatives make their first appearance aboard a hijacked Coast Guard vessel. Then they murder an entire boat full of Cuban refugees to get at kilos of cocaine stashed in the hull. Within the first five minutes of this film, viewers get immigrants, machine guns, pinko commie Russkies slaughtering innocents yearning for freedom, and lots and lots of cocaine. God bless The Cannon Group!
Rostov’s plan is simple. He and his agents will take advantage of the freedom of movement in the United States to spread across the country and sow chaos. Apparently, Chuck came up with this idea. His politics have always been far to the right, and his ideas for a movie are reflected in that. In Chuck’s mind, America is ripe for invasion because we are so free. It’s not clear whether he’s arguing for greater vigilance or curbing freedoms in the name of security, but the idea of foreign terrorists (for these Soviets resemble terrorists much more than state actors) running rampant and unchecked in the country is very much from the paranoid wing of the Republican Party.
In fact, this whole film is stuffed with Chuck’s horrific perspective on the United States. There’s a scene around the end of the first act where Chuck is driving slowly through the streets of Miami, and all he sees are hookers, pimps, drug dealers, drug addicts, and aggressive biker gangs. This is what he thinks life is like in American cities. It’s insulting, and even more so because, at times, the film makes urban dwellers culpable to the awful events of the invasion.
Then there are the attacks by Rostov and his men. They blow up a tract of suburban homes and destroy a mall Blues Brothers-style. Always they attack where people feel safe. It’s not enough for the Soviets to invade the United States. They have to attack our way of life, as well. Even Chuck admitted at one point that the targeted violence of the bad guys in this film was heavy-handed, but, this was the first time Chuck was given the opportunity to contribute to a screenplay, and he had shit to say.
So, the politics in this flick stinks. It represents everything that rightwing nut jobs simultaneously fear and desire. Like Chuck, they see the American way of life as under constant threat, and, despite this, look forward to the day when they can take up arms and defend it. It’s a journey into the death paradigm. It’s also what rules the United States right now, over 30 years after this flick was released, in 1985. I wonder if Chuck feels any more secure these days.
That’s the bad, but there is plenty on offer for the shitty movie fan. For one, there is an endless stream of gunfire and explosions in this flick. It really is impressive. The list of shitty filmmaking moments is extensive, as well.
Chuck wears some of the best outfits to ever grace a shitty movie. The denim shirt/jeans combo, open at the chest, of course, is just the beginning. Add in a pair of black leather gloves wielding dual Micro Uzis in an...interesting...holster arrangement, and the ensemble is complete.
In many, many action flicks, including this one, reloading firearms is optional. It’s a common trope. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen a never-ending rocket launcher in a movie before, and Rostov has one.
Zito also earns a yellow card for attempted filmmaking for the scene where Hunter burns down his cabin, and thus his retirement, before setting off to take on Rostov. But, Rostov and company had already blown the place up, so Hunter was just finishing the job. There really wasn’t anything left for Hunter to lament in this scene.
Then, there was the acting. Chuck never could figure out that part of the movie business, but acting isn’t what he was there for. Lynch is a legendary b-movie bad guy, but he couldn’t put on a Russian accent to save his life. No Russian character in this film could. In fact, there wasn’t an actual Russian anywhere in the cast.
The production was also very weird. The film bounces back and forth between South Florida and Atlanta and its environs. It doesn’t follow any sort of logic other than what was required for that particular scene. In addition, there’s a subplot involving a Miami police detective (Eddie Jones) that takes up a lot of the running time, but has no bearing at all on the outcome of the plot.
The overall feel of the film is scattershot. The plot exists to propagandize Chuck’s darkness, but also as vignettes to tie together the scenes where stuff blows up. It’s a film with a message that is undermined by its own pacing. Its watchability is also undermined by all the fearmongering, and the violence. It’s not the level of the violence that’s the problem, but rather where it’s directed. It’s hard to watch an action film as escapist fun that features children being torn apart by bullets. I can get my daily dose of heavy from the news, thank you very much. I don’t need it from Chuck freaking Norris. Because of that, a flick that had the potential to be shitty gold instead falls down the list, landing in the #109 spot, between Alien vs. Predator and The Beast of Hollow Mountain. I can’t recommend bothering with it.