One of Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus’ most iconic examples of Cannon fodder, Invasion U.S.A is 80’s action trash taken to the logical limit, and it’s bloody shite. Thankfully it’s also hilarious and excessively entertaining. As for Chuck Norris – well, it’s not so much that he can’t act, more that he won’t act. I have never seen a more non-descript action hero than our Chuck. His face is a almost entirely blank canvas – I say almost, since he does have a beard. Aside from a bit when he wrangles an alligator early on, he has no characteristics or interests beyond beating people and killing people. Sometimes he combines the two.
Here, he plays Matt Hunter, one of those ‘there’s only one man for the job’ types. He lives alone in the Florida Everglades, where he does little else except be a man. You do not fuck with him. If you do, he’ll hit you with so many rights you’ll be begging for a left. He’ll also, when demanding information, squeeze that hand you were using to hold your beer so hard the glass will break. Ouch. The villains in Invasion U.S.A are particularly despicable, their only personality traits being stuff along the lines of ‘complete prickheads’ and ‘murdering scumbag bastards’– I mean, we start off with a boatload of tired, lost refugees (including children) being ‘welcomed’ by the U.S coast guard, who turn out to not be remotely U.S-ish or even coastguard-ish. No, they’re our bad guys, of undecided ethnic origin (I think the film is more than happy to designate them simply as ‘un-American’) who kill them all and then take the secret stash of cocaine that was on the boat. The head bad guy, Rostov, is played by Richard Lynch, and this fucker just looks evil. Bless him, his face also looks like it’s been put on wrong, like the bad guy in Men in Black. He’s the best thing in this movie, because he’s just so off the chain, but that isn’t saying much at all. It looks like there’s a history between Rostov and Hunter, with the latter lamenting that he should have killed him when he had the chance. Rostov has a nightmare where Hunter catches him unawares and insists that ‘it’s time’. As in, time to die. Therefore, if Rostov is going to successfully invade the USA, he best take Hunter out of the equation first. After a half-hearted attempt, Hunter is left for dead and so the invasion can commence. This involves Rostov and his gang going around and killing Americans in acts of outrageously OTT violence – they storm the beach and literally stomp over a couple kissing by the sea, they blow up a load of houses with rocket launchers that somehow never need to be reloaded, they kill a load of people at some bar in Miami, lay waste to a shopping mall (although Chuck does most of the damage) and a fairground too (though we never see this – given this is a Cannon film, I suppose the budget can only go so far).
They even try to blow up a church and a school bus full of children, but even that’s too much for Golan and Globus, so Chuck foils both plans at the last minute. How he does so is down to some weird sixth sense that has him arriving at the nick of time from out of nowhere in any situation. Apparently the film was ruthlessly cut to take out shit like explanations, continuity or common sense, so all we’re left with are action sequences. To be honest, this lean, mean approach does work in the film’s favour. There’s no way this film was going to be any good in any given cut, so the filmmakers might as well just give us the greatest hits. This is why Invasion U.S.A is the most fun out of all the Chuck films I’ve seen. It’s not his best – that’s still Code of Silence, which, keep it quiet, is actually a proper decent thriller, but it’s not an all-out mad piece of outrageous trash like this. You can keep The Delta Force, which is about an hour too long and not quite crap enough to work as an unintentional blast – this is where it’s at.
There’s an astonishing scene early on which encapsulates the madness of this movie. Rostov shows up at a seedy motel (natch) to sell the cocaine he’s just nicked and the dealer is BILLY FUCKIN’ DRAGO. Sometimes I think filmmakers simply put Billy Drago in a supporting bad guy role to make the real bad guy look even more evil. Poor Drago only lasts one scene here, but it’s a good one, and it essentially culminates in Rostov sealing the deal by killing Mickey (Drago) and some addict who’s busy snorting coke. This is how it goes down:
1. Rostov slams the addict’s face down onto the table whilst she’s snorting with her straw, which results in the straw going up in her head.
2. Rostov, after killing a few lackeys (two shots fired, three bullet holes in the door – eek), hurls Mickey up against the wall, pulls out a gun, sticks it down his trousers and SHOOTS HIM TWICE IN THE COCK AND BALLS!
3. Rostov grabs the screaming addict and hurls her through a window.
It’s a jaw-dropping moment, and the bit that stands out is Rostov shooting Mickey in the nuts. What an odd way to kill someone. If Rostov had only ever done this kind of thing once, then we could chalk it up to a moment of madness, but no – he shoots one of his own men in the cock and balls later on. Like I say, one time – off-the-cuff resourcefulness. Two times – this man’s clearly got a depraved M.O. You just know that this is how he’s aching to off the Chuck with, but by the end he’s so desperate he’s had to resort to the infinitely less initmate method of ROCKET LAUNCHER.
Nothing else in the film is quite as jaw-dropping as that Lynch/Drago face-off, but there’s lots of laughs to be had, be it the very obstinate man who tries to chase down the terrorist who ‘forgot his bag’, the lady who suffers an entire car chase being dragged along by the side of the vehicle, the kids who sing ‘Row, Row, Row Your Boat’ on loop without even moving onto the other verses (where’s the crocodile? The lion?), the car on display in the mall that’s just screaming to be used, and the utterly pointless reporter character who does no reporting, instead just taking a few snapshots and hurling a lot of abuse at our Chuck, who barely reacts. The reporter incidentally, is played by Melissa Prophet, who I recognised as Joe Pesci’s wife in Casino.
Oh yeah, finally the ending – essentially, Hunter and Rostov stalk each other around an office block with rocket launchers. Anyone who played multiplayer in Goldeneye on the N64 will remember there was an option to chase each other around with the bloody things, and they were frankly impractical. Let one off in a closed environment (just like letting anything off in a closed environment) was only going to do you more damage than anyone else. Yet we pretty much get a mano a mano stand-off in a corridor and it culminates in one seriously exterminated bad guy, a broken window and a stray boot – it is utterly, utterly ludicrous. Yet by this point in the film, I was pretty much sold on it. The thing is, this showdown isn’t even the best of its kind. That’s right, it wasn’t the Best Rocket Launcher Death in a Cannon Film from 1985. That prestige must be awarded to Death Wish 3, where Charles Bronson terminates the bad guy with a bazooka he ordered through the post. After Rostov is blown to pieces, the film ends. It makes sense – Chuck has literally nothing left to contribute after that, so he may was well just power down until he’s ready to be let loose as part of The Delta Force.
Invasion U.S.A works as a total comedy these days, but at the time it was lambasted as paranoid, dumb as fuck, xenophobic trash. Still, those critics, who were rightly offended, must have also been quietly laughing their arses off at that bit when Billy Drago gets his bollocks shot. They just didn’t put that bit in the review, that’s all.