Tuesday, February 3, 2015

What the Chuck?! Invasion U.S.A.

I don't know why it's taken me so long getting around to writing about Invasion U.S.A. from 1985. It's one of Chuck's greatest flicks and I enjoyed the hell out of watching it with some whiskey at my side. Apparently, by the mid 80's, America hadn't been invaded for 200 years. Evil Russian spy guy Mikhail Rostov (Richard Lynch, View In Peace) is looking to change that with the help of a Communist army made up of his fellow countrymen, Cubans and some Arabs.  Landing on the beaches of Florida, they kill civilian men, women and children ruthlessly.  The C.I.A. tries to recruit former operative Matt Hunter (Norris) to look into the case but he's too busy wrestling and wrangling alligators in the Florida Everglades.  The company wouldn't let Hunter kill Rostov when he had the chance so now it's their problem. You see, Hunter once caught Rostov during a thwarted assassination by bazooka attempt and the Red is still plenty pissed and scarred about it.  Nightmares of Hunter sticking a gun to his temple and telling him, "It's time to die..." have him waking up in anger and fright before dispatching some dudes to take care of The Chuck.  They miss of course but kill his airboat riding, frog eating buddy John (Dehl Berti, View In Peace) so now it's on and Hunter is gonna show those dirty Commies how America kicks ass!

Meanwhile, the mercenary army creates violent havoc on the streets of Miami. Posing as cops they commit terrorist attacks and stoke the fire of social and racial unrest until civilians begin fighting each other. In a key scene the baddies attack a shopping mall during Christmas but Hunter saves the day with his jacked up truck, denim shirt and twin Uzi's. Now with a taste for bloody revenge, Hunter starts offing Rostov's army with extreme "guns, karate, explosion and knife through the hand" prejudice.

Man what a great flick.  It's funny, ridiculous, intense, violent and near exploitative.  Rostov is a real shitbag, seeing Americans as soft and not realizing how their own safety can be used against them. In an early scene, Rostov shoves a snorting with a steel straw cokehead's head into the table then throws her out the window AND shoots a dealer in the nuts. It was an interesting twist to have him so mentally messed up by Hunter and thus making some bad strategic decisions out of fear. Joseph Zito directs a script by James Bruner, Chuck himself and brother Aaron with that sleazy 80's vibe where people are violently killed via squibs and shots to the head. Chuck's unexpected but welcome dry humor is on display early talking about Social Security and being sick of eating frogs. After friend John is killed, Hunter goes sullen as it's time for Rostov to die. Norris delivers several lines in awesome yet intense whisper giving "I'm not interested or You're beginning to irritate me and Not this time" surprising menace and quotability. All in, Norris whispers "It's time to die" three times throughout the running time and makes good on his words at the end with a frigging bazooka duel!

Hot on the heels of the well received cop thriller Code of Silence, Norris would enter his Cannon Film days for schlock masters Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus with Invasion. Norris was loyal to the Go-Go boys stating that they were there for him when he needed them.  Making an estimated $2 million a film in 1985, Invasion U.S.A. is said to have cost a then staggering $16 million clams with $5 going to the mall scene alone shot over 3 nights with thousands of extras that's as harrowing as it is impressive with explosions, squibs and trucks crashing through glass and storefronts on location in Georgia. Opening on September 27th with a healthy $6.8 million weekend take, putting it ahead of flicks like Romancing the Stone sequel The Jewel of the Nile, St. Elmo's Fire, Fright Night and The Breakfast Club and behind action flicks Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, Commando, Pale Rider and Rambo II.  Although Invasion opened up strong, it would gross less than all of those films on it's way to $17.5 million; putting it ahead of To Live and Die in L.A., Death Wish 3, King Solomon's Mines, Remo Williams, American Ninja and Lifeforce.

From here, Norris would team up with Lee Marvin for hit The Delta Force before facing diminishing returns on Mission in Action III, Hero and the Terror, Delta Force 2 and The Hitman. Director Zito already had successes Mission in Action and Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter under his belt and would go on to the big budget Dolph Lundgren vehicle Red Scorpion before seemingly fading away from filmmaking. The character of Matt Hunter would appear in 1986's Avenging Force with Michael Dudikoff taking over the role when Norris passed.

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