CULT BLENDER spotlights the good, the bad, and the ugly of the cult film world. Direct-to-video, b-movies, drive-in classics, Hollywood flops, and misunderstood gems are all here, awaiting rediscovery or to be seen for the first time.
PLOT: When an army of multi-ethnic communist terrorists (led by Richard Lynch) invade the United States, only one man can stop them: Chuck Norris!
THE RUNDOWN: Before I begin this review, the following needs to be made very clear: I love Chuck Norris as an action hero. Norris might be an uber-conservative cuckoo in real life, but he has always been a favorite of mine on the big screen. And no, I’m not kidding or being ironic. I genuinely love his films. Love THE DELTA FORCE, AN EYE FOR AN EYE, THE OCTAGON, FIREWALKER, FOREST WAR…okay, maybe not FOREST WARRIOR, but you get what I’m saying. I’m a true blue Norris film fan and have been since around 1984.
I blame my parents. They let me see THE KARATE KID when it hit VHS in late ’85 which led to me wanting to learn karate which led to me watching films that featured martial arts which…you guessed it…led to Chuck Norris. And because my parents were pretty lenient with the whole ratings thing, my seven (nearly eight) year old eyes were suddenly exposed to CODE OF SILENCE and LONE WOLF MCQUADE.
Almost immediately, I was aware that any and all problems in the world could be solved with a perfectly timed roundhouse kick to the face and by rocking an mustache. I realize that Chuck’s real life philosophy (called Chun Kun Do) is based on more on peace and harmony than violence, but I grew with the Cannon version of Chuck. In other words, violence solves every problem and America rocks.
Cue INVASION USA, an anti-Commie bit of propaganda that is so overblown that it ended up being the perfect union of Chuck “I am gonna hit you with so many rights you are going to beg for a left” Norris and Cannon Films. Oh sure, one could argue that THE DELTA FORCE and MISSING IN ACTION are better films and they’d be right. After all, those films actually feature legitimate actors, character development and semi-coherent storylines.
INVASION USA, on the other hand, has none of none of that. The plot is the basically the Cannon version of RED DAWN. A small army of terrorists enters the US through Miami and begins attacking all symbols of Americana. Malls, neighborhoods at Christmastime, churches, schools, supermarkets, every one of these places is a target and it’s up to ex-CIA agent Matt Hunter (Norris) to stop them.
Director Joseph Zito (THE PROWLER) does attempt to introduce some other plot bits into the mix, like the fact that the terrorists paid for their supplies with drug money and the fact that their attacks have triggered waves of race riots across the country, but none of it sticks. All that really works is the idea that terrorists have landed on America soil and Chuck Norris has to take them down. In the 80s, that’s all you needed to make a movie. One star, an army of foreign baddies (preferably commies) and an infinite supply of ammo. Worked for Schwarzenegger in COMMANDO, worked for Stallone in RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II and it works for Norris here.
Well, works in a very 80s kinda way. Being that I grew up with this movie and it taught me that any confrontation can be solved by shooting someone in the chest with a LAWS rocket, I’m biased as to how well this movie actually works. To me, this is a classic piece of American cinema that deserves a place next to GONE WITH THE WIND and THE WIZARD OF OZ. To the uninitiated, INVASION USA is cheesy sleazy with absolutely no redeeming qualities. BTW, I’m kidding about the classic statement…or am I?
Come to think of it, my parents probably should be slapped for letting me see this film at such a young age. Aside from the whole “terrorists invading America“ thing, INVASION also features such lovely images as a hooker getting a coke straw rammed into her nose (a gruesome effect brought to us courtesy of Tom Savini), Billy Drago (!) getting his nuts shot off (!!) by Lynch, boobies in two separate strip club scenes, children being murdered, a young couple being shot to death and…well, let me just assure you this is one violent movie. Far more violent than any of Chuck’s other Cannon offerings.
This flick is also a lot lighter with the hand-to-hand stuff than Chuck’s other pics. Outside of a few roundhouse kicks delivered to Lynch’s ugly mug, Chuck opts to gun down most of the baddies with his twin Uzis. Oh and speaking of kicks to the face, that’s the backstory between Hunter and Rostov: a kick to the face. Back when Hunter was working for the agency, he was tasked with stopping Rostov from blowing up an embassy. Hunter intervened, prevented the assassination and because he couldn’t kill Rostov, he kicked him in the face. HARD. So hard that Rostov never forgot it and actually (SPOILER ALERT) calls off the invasion in the finale. He does this so that he and his army of terrorists can head to Atlanta and take down Hunter once and for all. That’s how hard one kick from Chuck Norris is. Dude kicks you twenty years ago and you still feel it today.
But seriously, INVASION is really light on the chopsocky and that has always bothered me. I guess Chuck and Cannon were going for the RAMBO crowd by bringing in more ordnance and featuring less fists of fury. But dammit, I watch Chuck for the ass-kickery! There should’ve been more snapped legs and broken jaws! While I did see this when I was a youngling, the lack of bone snapping might be why this hit the old VHS player less than more combat-centric fare like GOOD GUYS WEAR BLACK and A FORCE OF ONE. Bullets are fine, but punches have more impact.
Facts are, INVASION USA isn’t high art. It doesn’t aim to be. This is an invasion flick that doesn’t have the budget to actually show the invasion. What the budget does allow for is a South Miami location in which Chuck can properly kick ass and take names. And while the finale does involve a building in downtown Atlanta, the full scope of the invasion is never seen…only heard. There are multiple shots of the bad guys watching the news or listening to the radio and hearing about the devastation their little attack has wrought but the audience never gets to witness it. And don’t believe the poster, people. Chuck never travels to Washington DC or to the World Trade Center. Like I said, 90% of INVASION USA takes place in South Miami.
The formula goes a little something like this: Chuck drives around in his pickup truck, he spots terrorists, confronts terrorists, kills terrorists, resumes looking for action. Rinse, lather, repeat. Outside of his buddy getting killed early on which propels him to join the fight, Hunter has no character arc…just action. As for the baddies, they have a similar formula: Terrorists spot an image of American freedom (malls, schools, fast food, supermarkets, etc.), attack (sometimes successfully, most times not), Chuck arrives, kills terrorists. The only arc that Rostov and his cronies have is that every attack must be more vicious than the last. That means what when the neighborhood at Christmastime is blown up early on, the next attack must be on a church at mass and the one after that has to be a bomb planted on a school bus full of children and so on and so on. It’s basically a sick game of “Who can commit the worst atrocity against America?”.
Oh and there is nothing gay about Chuck Norris battling the forces of evil while rocking the full beard and wearing a blue jean vest, blue jeans a pair of cowboy boots. I don’t care what AMERICAN DAD says. Plus, Hunter eventually marries and has a kid. Cannon left that little plot point (along with all the real character development) for the sequel AVENGING FORCE.
I think AngieBee can sum this up a little better than I can, so I’m going to pass the ball to her now…
ANGIEBEE’S TAKE: Personally, I really enjoyed the movie. I mean, INVASION USA features Chuck Norris in his prime. Who could ask for anything more? I think I have seen bits and pieces of this before, but never actually sat down and watched the whole movie. I did last night and was impressed because this is the type of movie I like. The good guys are 100% good and the bad guys are 100% bad. I don’t like having to root for the less offensive of the main characters. I don’t like gray areas in my movies. I don’t want to cheer for a thief who is going after a serial killer. Both are bad and why should I have to root for one of them? INVASION USA is all about Chuck being good and Richard Lynch being bad. Plain and simple.
Matt Hunter (Norris) comes out of retirement to stop an invasion of the United States. That’s the entire movie. As always, Chuck is an amazing one man army. If you have Chuck then you have all you need. It doesn’t matter if it 10 bad guys or 1000, he will fight them all and definitely win. I like it when the bad guys have no idea who they are dealing with. I think that’s why I love RAMBO. I wait for the moment when the bad guys read the top secret file that contains the details or accomplishments of the guy they are up against. I love that “oh shit” look when they realize they just pissed off the wrong guy.
While Chuck is definitely the high point of this movie, I should mention that the finale is quite a sight to behold. The whole movie comes to a head when the army of terrorists and the US military square off (while Chuck deals with Lynch inside an office building) in the middle of Atlanta. Trust me, you’ll get a contact off of the sheer amount of weaponry and chaos.
BODY COUNT: 156 (maybe more, lost count a bit during the finale). 30+ refugees are gunned down pre-credits, 10 Coast Guard members are shot off-screen, Drago and another thug have their balls shot off, 1 terrorist is ran over by Chuck in his pickup, an entire neighborhood (men, women, children) is blown up, a whole slew of kids at carnival are killed off-screen by a bomb (an act that pushes Chuck over the edge), a hooker has a cocaine straw rammed up her nose and is tossed out a window, 3 terrorists are blown up by their own car bomb, 4 are blown up by their own suitcase bomb and Rostov is blown up when Chuck fires a LAWS rocket into his chest. 90+ people are shot on-screen and…I lost count. Like I said, this is one violent f**king movie.
Here’s a vid of just the Chuck kills (27):
NAKEDNESS: Two strip club scenes in INVASION USA and not one clear shot of a boob. For shame. If you’re into blurry boobs, there’s a few to be had. Other than that, not much else. The ladies get Chuck shirtless for almost the entire movie. I think director Zito created his own “missed opportunity” by not having Chuck bed the annoying female reporter (Melissa Prophet). Had these two taken a moment for a little loving, it might have actually given her character a point. As it stands, Prophet simply looks good and has little to do outside of annoy our hero.
IDIOT MOMENT: This being an 80s movie, you can probably already guess that the terrorists are pretty dumb. Seemed to be a common theme with action pics back then. Baddies always have a good plan and start off pretty well. But once the shit (the hero) hits the fan, the terrorists always fall apart. Hans Gruber is probably the only bad guy in the 80s that stood a chance…that is, till John McClane dropped him out a window. Up until that point, dude was doing fine. Rostov, by comparison, is a moron. Dude is way too willy-nilly with gunning down his own people and he actually cancels the whole damn invasion in order to take down one guy. One guy! Legendary villain this guy ain’t.
SIGNATURE MOMENT: Hunter/Chuck takes down Rostov with a LAWS rocket to the chest. Much like a Hammer film, once the villain is dead, the end credits immediately roll. No need to waste time wrapping up loose ends and explaining what happened to the rest of the terrorists.
VERDICT: Chuck love aside, I just dig this flick. Always have. Maybe I like it because I grew up in the 80s when action heroes were action heroes and not flying off the walls via CG-enhancement. Don’t get me wrong, I love the action movies of today. Love THE MATRIX, FAST AND THE FURIOUS and TRANSFORMERS. All great junk food movies. But there is something simplistic and primal about 80s action pics (in particular, Chuck’s output) that just works for me. The ass-kicking was real, the explosions were real, the bullets were real and not all crazy “bullet time” and everything was just more real. I dig that, dig INVASION USA and dig Chuck Norris as an action hero.
TRIVIA: Whoopi Goldberg was Chuck Norris's first choice to play the female journalist. Joseph Zito disagreed, and cast someone else.
Michael Dudikoff took over the role of Matt Hunter for AVENGING FORCE. Dude was okay, but was certainly no Chuck Norris. Nobody can replace Chuck. Nobody!
Fear of spiders is arachnophobia, fear of tight spaces is claustrophobia, fear of Chuck Norris is called logic.