We are living in the era of THE EXPENDABLES and while I find those films amusing, they are really just a footnote in the careers of some amazing action stars from the 1980s. Chuck Norris' path shifted from action to mostly television circa 2000 when he took on his most famous role - Walker, Texas Ranger. That show is a ways from a lot of Chuck's most unforgettable action films but at least we still have close to twenty years worth of that Chuck to call upon for a good time. Chuck really got going in the late 1970s with BREAKER! BREAKER! and THE GOOD GUYS WEAR BLACK. From there he came into his own as a "one man army" martial arts movie star. He made a ton of enjoyable pictures like LONE WOLF MCQUADE, SILENT RAGE and the MISSING IN ACTION movies. Each of these really cranks up the bone-crushing violence and bloody action sequences. It was the kind of stuff I really got a kick out of as a youngster (for better or worse). The movie that stands out as one of my Chuck Norris favorites though, is INVASION U.S.A. Few films that I can recall are quite as outlandish and kinda nutty in the stuff they depict. About the time I first caught saw the movie, I was heavy
into G.I. JOE (both the cartoons and the toys) and INVASION U.S.A. seemed like a very R-rated version of that kinda thing. It's just the kind of flick we used to expect and enjoy from Cannon Films (who produced the movie). There are even some posters that show Chuck standing in front of a billowing American flag - which all the more makes it feel like G.I. JOE. As a kid, I was overwhelmed with joy at the sheer amount of ordinance that gets used in the film. I was learning the names of different firearms and such and was rather fascinated by all of it. Norris masterfully wields his Micro Uzis both in the film itself and on the poster. Uzis were a really big deal in the 80s and as a gun-obsessed teen, I couldn't help but love them. They were kind of obligatory in TV and movies of the 1980s whenever bad people (and sometimes good ones) needed submachine guns. Chuck doesn't stop with those Uzis though. He uses an M-16, a bazooka and more. Looking at the full list of weapons used in the film (at the Internet Movie Firearms Database), you really get a sense of the back and forth firepower on display throughout the thing:
Part of the reason I think INVASION U.S.A. is such a good time can be credited to director Joseph Zito. Zito is one of those guys that I have real soft spot for. In calling out some of the stuff I love from his filmography - THE PROWLER, FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER, RED SCORPION and MISSING IN ACTION - he may not immediately jump out as an auteur of the highest caliber. That said, I really like those films a lot and Zito has shown himself to be a venerable talent at helming both horror and action. He knows how to direct action set pieces as well as orchestrate tension in just the right way as to get your blood pumping when you watch his stuff. He also knows how to cast. I have often said that a solid bad guy can make such a big difference in the overall enjoyment and longevity of a movie like this. INVASION U.S.A. has a nearly perfect villain in actor Richard Lynch, who plays a Soviet operative that is leading the titular invasion on the U.S. starting in Florida. Lynch is one of those actors with not only the perfect demeanor for evil roles, but also a pock-marked face that carries with it the idea of a man who has lived a rough life and gives not one shit about anyone who stands in his way. Lynch has memorably played baddies in tons of movies and TV shows over the years and he's one of my favorites. His character demonstrates his unscrupulous ways by not only the amount of bloodshed and killing that he carries off, but the way in which he does it. He certainly has no qualms about murder in general, but he also has no issue with shooting men right square in the dick as well. Rarely will you see someone shooting people in the crotch like Lynch does here. It's quite hilarious. But that is just one example of how over the top and crazy the violence is in this flick. It could perhaps be seen as propaganda if it weren't all so silly. I find it to be an interesting entry in the Cold War cinema of the 1980s. John Milius' RED DAWN had come out just a year before and it also illustrated a similar attack on America. Clearly this kind of paranoia was in the zeitgeist at the time, but I am infatuated with the different approaches that two different filmmakers like Zito and Milius use for similar material. For one thing, Zito was a horror guy, so he used some amazing make-up guys on the movie - Tom Savini, Greg Nicotero, and Howard Berger. With these gentlemen involved, you know it's gonna bea bloodier and more extreme vision of an action movie.
Whether you remember it or not, INVASION U.S.A. is a classic in its own right from a bygone era and a movie that I highly recommend.
-An Audio Commentary from Director Joseph Zito. This is a new track and Zito is a lively speaker. Worth listening to.
-Also included are several new interviews with the cast and crew of the film:
--"Loose Cannons - With Screenwriter James Brunner"- (27 mins)
--"Cannon Carnage - The Make-Up Effects of INVASION U.S.A." (17 mins) - Includes interviews with Tom Savini, Greg Nicotero, and Howard Berger.