Saturday, October 01, 2005

Review: Invasion U.S.A. (1985)


Matt Hunter (Chuck Norris) is a battle-hardened ex-CIA operative living in the Florida swamps. All he wants out of life is to wrestle alligators, play with his pet armadillo, and find something other than frogs to eat ("God, I'm sick of frogs," he says.) But when Hunter's old nemesis - an evil terrorist named Rostov - enters the U.S., his agency bosses come crawling back to him, begging him to go into action one last time.

Hunter refuses the job at first, annoyed because he wasn't allowed to kill Rostov during their last encounter years ago. Rostov still has nightmares about that meeting, a meeting which ended suddenly when Hunter's foot and Rostov's face collided at high speed. Getting revenge on Hunter is now an obsession with Rostov. He goes to the swamp and vaporizes Hunter's shotgun shack with a rocket launcher. Rostov then leaves, assuming that Hunter is dead and not bothering to check for a body or anything. (Not surprisingly, Hunter survived the blast by flinging himself through a window just before the rocket hit.) With his beloved, half-rotted, mildewed, decrepit home ruined, Hunter feels he must once again return to the service of the U. S. of A.

Thinking that his archenemy is out of the way, Rostov turns his attention to bigger plans. Together with a terrorist named Nico he has amassed an army of mercenaries. Their diabolical plot is to invade America and cause so much mayhem that the government collapses. They send their mercenaries across the country hidden in bread trucks, U-Hauls, and minivans, and when Rostov gives the signal they unleash their campaign of random violence.

These terrorists are well-armed and very good at blowing things up and shooting people. They attack everything from middle-class subdivisions to shopping malls to Latino dance clubs, and pretty soon the American people get so confused and freaked out that the country is on the verge of total chaos. A curfew is put in place and martial law looks more and more imminent. Things look bleak, but that's when our ol' buddy Hunter appears.

Armed with a pair of Uzis and some really tight jeans, Hunter drives his swamp truck around looking for some terrorists to mow down. He knows that Rostov is behind the attacks and seems confident that if he is taken out of the picture, the rest of the terrorists will be too stupid to know what to do. He employs some Guantanamo Bay-style interrogation techniques on the bad guys (at least on the ones he doesn't immediately euthanize), but nobody seems to know where Rostov is.

Knowing that Rostov would stop at nothing to kill him, Hunter uses himself as bait and stages an ingenious trap in an office building. Rostov can't resist falling for it, and he brings a huge squad of his men with him. The army surrounds the building and a D-Day-like fire-fight ensues. Inside the building, Rostov and Hunter chase each other around the cubicles like a naughty boss and secretary. In the end they face off with rocket launchers, and of course Hunter's is bigger, so he wins. Hunter's rocket reduces Rostov to a greasy stain on the walls, the few remaining terrorists throw down their guns, and America is safe once more!


Watching bad movies can be a dark, painful, unrewarding experience akin to being trapped in a gym locker with an unfamiliar jock strap. However, every once in a while a movie comes along that really reaffirms my love of this art form. Invasion U.S.A. is one such movie. Rarely have I seen a film so tenaciously dedicated to its own completely whacko vision. It's a surrealist masterpiece on par with Un Chien Andalou.

First and foremost, there is the Chuck factor. He really shoves it into high gear here - he wrestles alligators; he wields a chainsaw; he punches; he kicks; he blows up terrorists like it was going out of style. For the ladies, there are plenty of shots of Chuck poured into his skinny 80's jeans, his trademark denim shirt unbuttoned down to his navel. This may indeed be his finest hour. He also lets loose some of the stupidest one-liners ever. His oft-repeated catchphrase in this one is "it's time to die," but my favorite line is, "if you come back in here, I'm gonna hit you with so many rights you're gonna beg for a left."

Rostov (Richard Lynch) is a hoot as well. His evilness is so over-the-top that you can't really take him seriously. He speaks with a Russian accent but sometimes lapses into German, which gives him the effect of being both a pinko Commie and a Nazi. He has an odd penchant for sticking his gun down men's pants and shooting them in the groin - I'll let you draw your own conclusions from that. Not to be cruel, but what actually scares me about Rostov is his freaky face. It might be described as a mummified Gary Busey; a skull with a tightly-stretched skin of Turkey Jerky; or as my wife described it, a ferret with smallpox. Not a pretty sight.

Rostov may not be much in the looks department, but his evil army must be given points for its diversity. I don't know what his recruiting tactics were, but his organization cuts across racial and ethnic barriers to the extent that it looks like a terrorist version of the U.N. Black, White, Asian, Arab, Hispanic - Rostov is an equal opportunity employer. The only group who seems to be left out in the cold is women.

In fact, the whole movie is almost completely bereft of female characters. The one token woman is a reporter who follows Hunter around, photographing him in various action poses as he shoots bad guys. If Hunter had a love interest here I guess it would be her, but they barely exchange two sentences. She was so paper-thin that she wasn't even given a first name (the credits simply list her as "McGuire").

But this is clearly a movie for twelve-year-old boys, and any "girl stuff" would only have diluted its purity. That's not to say that Invasion U.S.A. doesn't have a universal appeal. It taps into something deeply ingrained in us Americans - the intermingling of our patriotism and our subconscious national self-loathing. As much as we might plaster flag magnets all over our SUVs, we secretly long to see our local mall become ground zero for a terrorist invasion. Or maybe that's just me. Anyway, I can almost guarantee some sort of primal response when you watch the bombing of Santaland, or Rostov laying waste to a pristine middle-class neighborhood. It's both profoundly disturbing and tremendously entertaining.

The film's final showdown is classic. As anyone who has worked in an office building will tell you, it's the perfect place for a violent confrontation. I mean, who hasn't wanted to take an M-16 to their cubicle at one time or another? The destruction of desks, water-coolers, and potted plants is quite thrilling - think Rambo meets Office Space. When Rostov realizes that Hunter is about to finish him off with a rocket, he makes a sound which had me rewinding repeatedly to hear it again and again. It begins as a sort of low moan, then as Rostov turns to face his nemesis it builds into an amazing crescendo of rage the likes of which I've never heard. To render it in typed form would look something like this: mmmmMMMMMmmmrrrrrrRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!
Trust me, that noise alone makes Invasion U.S.A. worth a viewing.

Final Analysis

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is what it's all about. Bad movies are a dime a dozen, but ones this bad AND this much fun are uncommon. Invasion U.S.A. is an effervescent tablet of mindless violence, bad acting, and of course, Chuck Norris. Track this one down if you can - you owe it to yourself.


At 8:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Haha, great review. Well-written with a remarkable degree of insight given the source material.


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