Friday, November 30, 2012

Film Review: INVASION U.S.A. (1985, Joseph Zito)

Stars: 2.8 of 5.
Running Time: 107 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Directed by Joseph Zito (MISSING IN ACTION, THE PROWLER).  Written by James Bruner (THE DELTA FORCE, MISSING IN ACTION), Chuck Norris, and Aaron Norris (HELLBOUND, DELTA FORCE 2).  Produced by Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus.  Music by Jay Chattaway (VIGILANTE, MANIAC, SILVER BULLET).  Cinematography by João Fernandez (DEEP THROAT, DEADLY WEAPONS, CHILDREN OF THE CORN, FRIDAY THE 13TH PART IV, WALKER TEXAS RANGER).  Starring Chuck Norris, Richard Lynch (SCARECROW, THE SWORD AND THE SORCERER), Melissa Prophet (CASINO, GOODFELLAS), Eddie Jones (A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN, C.H.U.D.), Billy Drago (THE UNTOUCHABLES, DELTA FORCE 2), and James Pax (BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA, KINJITE: FORBIDDEN SUBJECTS).
Tag-line: "No one thought it could happen here...  America wasn't ready...  but HE was!"
Best one-liner:  "If you come back in, I'll hit you with so many rights, you'll be begging for a left!"

Is INVASION U.S.A. a good movie?  No, no it is not.  Today, I suppose it reads more like a post-election Tea Party fantasy, but back in the 80s I guess it was for the set who thought "I would have loved RED DAWN if it had been about one guy in tight denim with dual uzis instead of a teenaged guerrilla army."

Granted, "that guy" is Chuck Norris, but what I'm saying is: RED DAWN it ain't.  There are a lot of things that go wrong here– it's generally bland and doesn't have the mind-blowing action movie moxie of a DEATH WISH 3 or a STONE COLD, Chuck Norris doesn't do much in the way of martial arts and is offscreen way too often, and the supporting cast is pretty weak (the two Cannon character actors I was all psyched to see, Billy Drago and James Pax, get about a combined 2 minutes of screentime).  As far as Norris flicks go, I think I'd even have to put this one below THE HERO AND THE TERROR and SILENT RAGE.  It's even three or four steps down from DELTA FORCE 2: THE COLUMBIAN CONNECTION.

Mind the mud!

But– before you go throwing yourselves off of balconies– this is still a Norris/Cannon picture, and as such there are a handful of things that should tickle the fancy of any conoisseur of 80s trash nonsense.

"Let the fancy-tickling commence:  I'll bring the beard!"

Starring Richard Lynch as a communist-terrorist-mercenary

who wants to invade America because  we don't value our freedom enough ("They are their own worst enemy, they don't realize how we can use their freedom against them!"), INVASION U.S.A. sees Lynch proceed to "Monsters on Maple Street" the country, sowing mistrust and violence.  He expends a great deal of his resources on blowing up Chuck Norris' cabin and frightening his pet armadillo, shoots a drug-dealin' Billy Drago in the balls and tosses a hooker out the window, executes some kids making out on the beach, shoots up a Latino community center, and then heartily fucks up suburban Christmas with blasts from a rocket launcher during "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing."  Did I mention that this was sort of a Christmas movie?

"Daddy, can I put the star on top?"


I gotta say that the filmmakers do do a pretty good job of straight-up destroying Christmas.  But then, in a most egregious mistake, Lynch & Co. blow up a mall in the midst of holiday rush.

Ya don't mess with Reagan-era consumerism when Chuck is around, that's for sure.  And what did DEATH HUNT teach us about property rights?  Don't fuck with a man's cabin.  That's a big mistake.

And fuck with Norris' cabin they did.  They also needlessly scared the daylights out of this cute little guy:

the aforementioned pet armadillo, who might actually be my favorite element of the film.

Although, perhaps the biggest mistake they really made was killing off Drago.

This may have marked the beginning of a beautiful friendship (Drago also appears with Norris in THE HERO AND THE TERROR, DELTA FORCE 2: THE COLUMBIAN CONNECTION, and the WALKER, TEXAS RANGER episode "Terror in the Night") but he really only gets about sixty seconds to slither in and creep everybody out and say "Impress me" like he's Tom "Thrill me" Atkins in NIGHT OF THE CREEPS

before this happens

and then Lynch crams the coke straw of Drago's number-one-lady up into her sinus cavity and then tosses her out the window for good measure.

I'm not really sure what the purpose of all this was except to add some sleaze to the picture and to associate communism with American drug culture/prostitution?

Well, if you have any questions, you'll just have to ask the writer:

Yeah, Chuck just broke a bottle of Coors with his fist because he was so angry at the thought of having his artistic acumen undermined.  Well, that angry-bearded scribe brings us some rants against Social Security and the line "They're turning people against each other... even worse, they're turning them against authority!"  And it's a major plot point that all of this is happening because Norris didn't execute Lynch back when he had the chance:

Though he did kick him in the face.

And he also brings us yet another in a series of Chuck Norris characters with first names for last names:  Matt Hunter.  Also see:  Scott James, John Booker, Sean Kane, Josh Randall, etc., etc.

There's a weak plucky journalist character (Melissa Prophet- though supposedly Chuck's first choice was Whoopi Goldberg) who makes up for lack of character development by loudly calling everybody "Bozos!" and "Bastards!"  James Pax shows up impersonating a cop as he guns down partygoers at a Hispanic community center:

this guy shows up, too, the sort of ridiculous tank-top body-builder who's always wandering around Cannon Films for some reason:

and then there's a fairly great scene where Norris is threatening/propositioning Lynch via live television:

"One night you're gonna close your eyes..."

"And when you open them..."

"I'm gonna be there..."

Anyway, it gets pretty damn dull in stretches, and I think it might be because it was one of Cannon's biggest budgets (at $10 million) thus far.  Therefore, I theorize, they wanted to show it off with lots of shots of trucks driving and soldiers assembling and crowds running and tanks driving around instead of shots of street dancers and spandex'd henchmen and chicken being good and all.  I think Cannon wanted to make a "real" movie, and for that reason it loses a little of its charm.  Not all of it– not even close– but some.

Anyway, it practically redeems itself with an abrupt finale involving bazookas which recalls another Cannon film abrupt finale involving bazookas from 1985, DEATH WISH 3.  You see, Chuck and Richard Lynch are in a hallway with bazookas, sort of cruising each other

when this happens

At least you knew how to go out with a bang, INVASION U.S.A.– I'll give ya that!

-Sean Gill


Jack Thursby said...

Yeah, you're right this is quite dull in places despite its reputation.

Still, when it occasionally flashes into life it is genuinely awesome. Like when Norris just happens to see them the terrorists stick a bomb to a school bus so he drives alongside, picks up the bomb and throws it back into their car.

You make a good point about Invasion USA and Red Dawn though. Why have a hamburger like this when you can have steak instead?

J.D. said...

That ending was pretty cool, though. Esp. with Lynch yelling in agonizing slow-mo knowing that he ain't gonna get the drop on Norris no matter what. I also like how Norris casually drops the bazooka after he's dispatched Lynch, as if to say, "I'm done" and so is the movie!

Yeah, this movie's biggest crime is not giving Drago more sleazy screen-time to do his thing. I mean, you've got a guy like that in your film and you only have him in for a minute or so?! Granted, he does make the most of that minute but still...

Sean Gill said...


Ah yes, the school bus scene was indeed another one of those highlights. But yeah, in the wake of RED DAWN- a film which tackles similar subject matter and manages to deliver action movie thrills as well as genuine pathos– why even bother?


I do love a good, abrupt ending (see also: my love for Carpenter and Argento endings), and I do enjoy that INVASION USA wastes no time with a recap or hugs or a drawn-out denouement. It's just fire the bazooka, drop the bazooka.

As for Drago– thank God we at least have DELTA FORCE 2 as a document of the greatness that results when Drago gets to be a full-time villain in a Norris picture. I guess this film's just a preview of the Cannon greatness yet to come.

Buck Atwater said...

"Didn't work huh?"
"Now it will."

2.8?! C'mon! I think this is the first review of yours I think I disagree with. I can see what you mean about the dull stretches but they are pretty short, and I never get bored watching this one.

I'm a bit disappointed you didn't reference the part where he sticks the gum on the painting above his bed when he's finished with it.

Sean Gill said...


I think the biggest problems were my incredibly high expectations, this being perhaps the last Cannon "giant" that I hadn't yet seen, and having heard it compared favorably to DEATH WISH 3 on more than one occasion.

And, shit, now that you mention it, I did have a note about the gum but I couldn't read my own handwriting!