Reviewed by Chris Edwards
Rating: 6.5 Beans
ot so long ago, I reviewed the Chuck Norris cop-and-dog movie "Top Dog" for BMN. I wrote that review mainly because the movie contains one certain labored cliche that gets on my nerves. Not long ago, I received an email pointing out that, as Chuck Norris movies go, "Top Dog" is one of the better ones. The writer proposed several Norris films more worthy of the Bad Movie Night treatment, in particular the karate-cop-versus-reanimated-zombie-psycho flick "Silent Rage." That one is pretty wretched. I decided that I should pick on a really bad Chuck Norris movie, which is, as the email writer pointed out, pretty much all of them. So I picked "Invasion USA," not because it's the very worst Chuck Norris movie, but because it's my favorite bad Chuck Norris movie.
Chuck Norris was a busy guy in 1985. He turned out two new movies, the well-received "Code of Silence" and "Missing In Action II: The Beginning," in which he kills a rat with his teeth. With all that going on, he still had time to star in "Invasion USA." Not only that, he helped write it, too. This is Chuck Norris' big statement movie. That statement:
"We better watch out, or commies will invade Florida."
That's the central premise of "Invasion USA." A horde of multi-national foreigners set out to overthrow democracy by creating terrorist chaos across the country. The commies forgot one thing, though. We got Chuck Norris. Back in the landing craft, Ivan!
Chuck stars as Matt Hunter (he always plays guys with bland, waspy names), a former agent for "the Company" who gave up the espionage game to wrestle alligators in Florida. Amazingly enough, the terrorists' beachead and most of its major attacks are in Florida too! That worked out well. Was Hunter the best agent for the job, or just the closest? Hunter won't fight, though, til the commies form an airboat militia, kill his Indian buddy, burn down his house, and seriously inconvenience his pet armadillo.
Meanwhile, commie leader Rostov, played by pasty-faced Richard Lynch, is overseeing all the nefarious misdeeds there in strategic Florida. He's out doing stuff like trading coke for guns, jamming a coke straw up a woman's nose, shooting her boyfriend about six times, and throwing her out a window. He's a mean, mean man. But he's troubled. He's afraid of Hunter (well, go where he's not, Rostov). In fact, he's scared senseless of Hunter, and we find out why courtesy of a flashback. Sometime in the past, we learn, Hunter kicked Rostov. One time. In the face. That's all. What kind of terrorist leader can't get over being kicked?
Maybe Rostov knows that Hunter is psychic. No really, he's psychic. Wherever the terrorists are about to strike, Hunter pops up and spoils their efforts. He averts the bombing of a mall. He averts the bombing of a church. He kills a terrorist disguised as a US soldier. Each time, he just appears. No explanation for these powers are offered, he just knows...
My other theory about how Hunter finds these trouble spots is this- The whole movie takes place in one ten square mile area. Otherwise, the whole movie is so overstuffed with implausible coincidences it boggles the mind. Like, on two seperate occasions, Hunter just chances across one of Rostov's lieutenants. Does that seem plausible? Just chancing across two very specific people out of everyone in what appears to be a very large area? If you were in New York, and two of your friends were there somewhere too, would you expect to run into them? When Hunter stops the bombing of the bus, he just happens to be in traffic nearby when the bomb is planted. Are we to assume there are so many terrorists out and about that you can't help but meet up with some? It's not limited to Hunter either. There's a very surly, loudmouthed reporter lady (Melissa Prophett), who mostly dogs Hunter's footsteps and swears at him for saving her life and stuff. But at one point, she's covering a dance at a Hispanic community center (is this really news?). Sure enough, the terrorists arrive and shoot the dance up. Out of all the places they could have picked, they picked one where a main character was. Wow. Not only that, the two terrorists are, again, Rostov's lieutenants. A bit later, when Hunter saves the shopping mall, guess who's just pulled up outside, in her cherry '65 Mustang convertibla, all ready for a car chase? Mouthy reporter lady. It's like watching a Batman movie-the whole city is really just a couple of blocks.
The reason "Invasion USA" has these lapses of logic is that the story is diffuse. It's about a whole horde of terrorists who go all over the place. There's no good reason to get these characters together, so we just have to accept that they do, so the shooting can commence. Since Hunter doesn't have a goal, he just kills bad guys piecemeal until the climax is called for. And since nothing has propelled the movie to a climax, an artificial one is created. Hunter sets a completely obvious trap for Rostov, who reacts by committing his entire force to, basically, getting caught. This sets up the final battle, complete with tanks, choppers, and rocket launchers. America is saved.
There's something else wrong with this movie, and I didn't notice the first few times I watched it. Screenwriters are taught to get into a scene late, and out of it early. Which basically means, keep your scenes tight and direct, show the audience what they need to see. If you're writing a scene of a car arriving at a house, for instance, you don't have to show the car coming down the street, up the drive, etc., unless you need to give some story information that way. "Invasion USA" seems to revel in getting into scenes far too early. Repeatedly, we are introduced to characters who will take no part in the movie proper, they're just setting the scene for us. But setting the scene takes a long time. The most tedious of these involves decorating an outdoor Christmas tree. So long and irrelevant is it, you start wishing the terrorists would go on and blow them up. Happily, they do.
Chuck Norris had been in movies for over a decade when he made this. He still hadn't picked up the acting thing yet. If anything, he's stiffer than usual here, his face immobile, his tone of voice unchanging. But in his defense, Chuck Norris is an athlete turned actor. When he squared off against Bruce Lee in "Return of the Dragon," he was still a champion karateka. It was his spinning back-kick, not his emotional range, that got him into movies. (Bruce Lee on the other hand was an actor for much of his life, as well as a martial artist, who thought of himself as an actor.) So I can overlook Chuck's acting if his martial prowess is on display, that's his claim to fame. "Invasion USA" offers up a kick or two, nothing remotely fancy. To me, that makes the acting worse.
If you can, watch this movie with somebody who knows a little about military weapons. They'll have a field day pointing out the errors and impossibilities.
So there you have it, my review of a major bad Chuck Norris movie. The movie that answers the question, "What if we took out the story to make room for more explosions?" Six and a half beans and one hand grenade. It's a good thing communism went out before they got the chance to really do this. Or have they done it already?
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