Think Chuck Norris, think Invasion USA. Well, I do anyway. Perhaps it’s the snappy, rhythmical catchiness of the title that makes it so memorable. Perhaps it’s because it came out when Chuck was top of his game, fully graduated with a Master’s Degree in 80’s mindless, gung-ho action gibberish following his Batchelor of (Martial) Arts days of the late 70’s-early 80’s chop-socky action thriller fare.
The interesting thing about The Norris is his credibility. You may think he doesn’t have any, but he does. Anyone who trains with Bruce Lee, befriends Bruce Lee, and then cast by Lee to be his ultimate opponent in Way of the Dragon, deserves some credibility. And then of course there’s his numerous kung fu qualifications, one of which is being the first ever Westerner to be awarded an eighth-degree black belt in Tae Kwan Do. Steve McQueen was blown away by Norris’ skills and famously said to him “If you can’t do anything else, there’s always acting”, after which Norris went on to incorporate his martial arts skills in much the same way that Bruce Lee (who had a hell of a lot more to prove) had done before him; the world of fight-based thriller motion pictures.
Unfortunately however, by the time of Invasion USA, something different had happened. Norris picked up guns and shot the baddies instead of bashing them about with his karate skills. That’s the mid 80’s for you. Invasion USA is big, bad, and brainless. I can imagine the producers and screenwriters in a pre-production meeting: “Ok, let’s not make this too complicated, ok? This isn’t about plot, it’s about action, violence, revenge, heroism and we want LOADS of explosions and Chuck Norris with guns.” That’s exactly what you get.
The movie starts with a boat full of Cubans trying to make it to the Florida coast until obvious impostor / bad guy Mikhail Rostov, pulls up alongside with the coastguard, says “Welcome to America”, then proceeds to gun down every last one of them, running off with all their Charlie. He then goes to sell the coke to a very dangerous looking man whose ladyfreind is snorting away at it, than is until Rostov bashes her face of the surface she is snorting from, puts his gun down the dealer’s pants, pulls the trigger and throws him out the window. He’s badass, this guy, and he has nightmares about when Matt Hunter (yeah, that’s Chuck Norris, in case you hadn’t guessed) caught him, said “It’s time to die” and then let him get away. He hates Norris and vice versa, but Norris will only kill him if he’s asked too, because he’s a good guy you know, just like one of us.
When Rostov isn’t hating Norris, he’s hatching a plan to invade USA with his army of extras landing on the beaches off Miami, piling into trucks bound for Chicago, Las Vegas, etc, to wage war on ordinary America. What follows is a full-scale (well in Miami anyway) attack on ordinary folk as Rostov’s troops take to the streets with guns aplenty, while their favoured choice of human destruction is the trusty take-no-prisoners rocket launcher. Chaos ensues, as the National Guard take over to bring some kind of control to the civil unrest that sees police officers staying at home to protect families and armed citizens take to the streets.
Matt Hunter is no ordinary civilian though – he’s an agent, asked by the “agency” to take Rostov and his men down following a routine “We really need you this time” scene. No one else, just one man against hundreds, but that’s fine because this is 1985 - the time of Stallone, the time of Schwarzenegger, the time of the one-man army, because dontcha know that’s all it took back in 1985. One man, one truck, attitude, two Uzis and optional beard.
A prerequisite of the one-man army is a hero who remains not only calm and confident under pressure, but one who must be careful not to demonstrate a confusing array of facial expressions. One will do nicely, and two at a push. The only times Norris smiles in Invasion USA is 1) when he sees his pet armadillo acting stupid, and 2) when he’s watching an old B&W sci-fi movie on TV which is, I should point out, a 1953 movie called…wait for it...Invasion USA! The rest of the time he exemplifies the Charles Bronson portfolio of facial expression, which is to say that it never really changes – one expression fits all situations. Steve McQueen had a lot to answer to.
Strange as it is to find myself thinking this, I believe that there is a place for lame, shortsighted action movies like this. They’re reminders of a time when the intellectual appetites and expectations for Hollywood action films was at an all-time low, while forecasting how bigger, better and louder would eventually rule the roost. There really isn’t any plot here at all: a bad Russian guy is killing Americans, and then Norris is sent on assignment to kill him. They are arch enemies. Cue explosions, dumb-ass dialogue, and the token nosey female journalist (who is not only incredibly annoying but seems to have clairvoyance skills for every single attack because she’s ALWAYS there), and then wrap it all up with a massive yet dull gun battle while our hero offs the villain by firing a rocket launcher at him point blank, sending him out the window and all over the street.
The plot’s straightforwardness is mirrored by Norris’s wardrobe. Picture this: A bearded Norris, dressed in tight blue jeans, low-buttoned denim shirt, double brown leather shoulder holsters, black leather gloves and, most important of all, an Uzi for each hand, pumping out bullets faster than thrash metallers Slayer. He’s a nice regular guy, just don’t push him – you know the sort. Norris is actually a Christian in real life and apparently refused to play characters who were morally unsound. That’s why you have to push him before he pushes you but when he does you’ll feel liked Jesus himself has booted you in the face. Ouch.
And there you have it. Not the greatest action flick ever made. Not a complete waste of time if you’re in the mood for what it offers.
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