Sunday, July 05, 2015

Invasion U.S.A. (1985)

Chuck Norris was already one of America’s biggest box office stars before this crazy, jingoistic action movie opened at number one. Courtesy of Cannon’s Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus and featuring what may jokingly be called a screenplay co-written by Norris, INVASION U.S.A. is brainless fun with zero characterization, hardly any dialogue spoken by its star, and perhaps the worst female lead (in terms of performer and character) in the history of action movies.

Retired “Company” agent Matt Hunter (Norris) spends his life wrestling alligators and trading quips with grizzled Indian trader John Eagle (Dehl Berti) outside his shack in the Everglades. Reluctantly, he returns to active duty when hundreds of godless Commie terrorists, led by his old foe Rostov (Richard Lynch), invade the U.S.A. via Florida with a massive plan to blow up school buses, shoot up shopping malls, turn Americans against authority, and ruin Christmas.

For the most part, law enforcement is nowhere to be seen, except for a couple of government spooks (one played by Eddie Jones) and Hunter, whose condition for stopping Rostov is “I work alone.” So while hundreds of baddies roam the Sunshine State mowing down citizens, Hunter cruises aimlessly in his pickup truck with an amazing sixth sense for finding the killers, blasting them with his twin-holstered Uzis, and moving on to the next target. More often than coincidence would allow, he encounters an obnoxious female journalist, played horribly by Melissa Prophet (GOODFELLAS), who shows her gratitude at being rescued by Hunter by constantly calling him “Cowboy.”

Granted, the reporter is such an ill-conceived and superfluous character that Meryl Streep couldn’t have made her anything but an annoying appendage. But that’s the kind of perplexing mess INVASION U.S.A. is — an absurd series of setpieces in which Norris stumbles onto someone in danger and blows the bad guys away. There’s no detective work involved in which he is able to deduce where Rostov’s men will pop up next. No, he just drives around until he accidentally discovers the script’s next action scene.

Rostov’s plan, as far-fetched as it seems, would stand a better chance of succeeding if he’d just give it priority, but, noooo, he has to kill Chuck Norris first. You see, years before, Chuck had interrupted one of Rostov’s terrorist plots, and—gulp—kicked the Russian square in the face. One time. It must have been one heckuva kick, because Rostov still has nightmares about it, and refuses to fully commit himself to the invasion until Chuck is dead.

A lot of bullets fly in this movie, and director Joseph Zito (FRIDAY THE 13TH—THE FINAL CHAPTER), who previously worked with Norris on MISSING IN ACTION, at least keeps things moving quickly, tossing in a few smooth dolly shots and splashing enough blood on the screen to keep nondiscriminating audience members (like me) from getting bored. Working with a reported $10 million budget, Zito manages to get it all on the screen, photographing enough exploding houses, squibbed chests, and burning men to keep Cannon’s stunt crew plenty busy. INVASION U.S.A. may be stupid, crude, and confusing, but it certainly isn’t boring and is typical of the fun but empty-headed action movies Cannon was releasing in the 1980s.


Christopher Mills said...

The paperback novelization of INVASION U.S.A. is surprisingly decent, and addresses some of the script weakness you note reasonably well.

And, although I sincerely hate to be pedantic, Norris' twin machine pistols are not UZIs, but Ingram MAC-10s.

Grant said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Grant said...

Almost the only Cannon action movie I know remotely well is a comedy (I don't know if that's extremely rare or not). It's a parody of WWII movies (and I guess especially the show THE RAT PATROL) called A MAN NAMED SARGE. It's really pretty entertaining.