A one-man army comes to the rescue of the United States when a spy attempts an invasion.
"If you come back in here, I'm going to hit you with so many rights you're going to beg for a left."
Some movies are just an embodiment of a certain type of filmmaking or a particular studio for that matter. These are the films that latched onto the cultural zeitgeist of their particular era and now are branded to the conditions of their creation. When I look back at the 1980s as the decade of my upbringing and the movies I grew up watching, I think of great comedies, gruesome slasher flicks, and the macho-man action movies. While the macho-man action movie had plenty of entries - some of them quite good - one studio churned them out like butter, The Cannon Group headed by infamous Israeli producers Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus. Of the seemingly infinite number of action movies that The Cannon Group produced during that decade, it is the Joseph Zito directed Chuck Norris starring 'Invasion U.S.A.' that immediately comes to my mind. The film smartly tapped into the brewing fears of the arms race and of a communist invasion of the United States and exploited those worries to perfection. This allowed Chuck Norris, his beard, two uzis, and a lethal high kick to show the world what American might actually looks like, and why an invasion would be futile to attempt.
All Matt Hunter (Chuck Norris) wants to do is lead a quiet life helping his friend catch gators in Florida, zip around the swamps on his airboat and feed his pet armadillo. This is the peaceful existence he's longed for after years of working as a covert C.I.A. hitman taking out the scum of the Earth, scum like Mikhail Rostov (Richard Lynch). As much as he would have liked to put a bullet between Rostov's eyes, Hunter was under orders to bring the international terrorist in alive. After escaping incarceration, Rostov is on the loose and working with men like Nikko (Alexander Zale) to covertly invade the United States and attack Americans where it hurts the most, in our homes, at our shopping malls, and at our carnivals in order to terrorize us into submission.
While Rostov and Nikko's plan is working, leaving a befuddled Detective Cassidy (Eddie Jones) and his band of inept police officers trying to put the pieces together, McGuire (Melissa Prophet), a hotshot reporter starts to uncover the mystery putting her own life at risk. The only person capable of stopping Rostov and saving the American way of life is Hunter. When Rostov kills his friend and blows up his house leaving him for dead, Hunter now knows there is no one else to stop the madman and his army of insurgents from taking over the country. After combing his luscious head of hair, trimming his beard, slipping into his best pair of dungarees, denim shirt, and strapping on a pair of fully-loaded uzis, Hunter is now ready to match Rostov bullet for bullet, grenade for grenade, blood for blood - and he won't stop until Rostov and his army are dead.
Before I get started breaking down why I love this movie so much, I first feel the need to explain the five-star rating I gave this film. Just in case you're unaware, the Cannon Group produced a vast amount of schlock cinema in an incredibly short period of time. The quality of these films ranged from terrible to genuinely pretty bad to half-way decent - but most if not all of these movies are incredibly entertaining. One man was responsible for making some of the best Cannon films even more enjoyable - Chuck Norris. From the 'Missing in Action' movies to the 'Delta Force' flicks to one of my all time favorites 'Hellbound,' Chuck Norris was a force to be reckoned with. 1985's 'Invasion U.S.A.' in my opinion is hands down the best of Chuck's work. So to that end, I am rating this movie against all other Chuck Norris movies, and in particular, all other films released by the Cannon Group during the reign of Golan/Globus thus its five-star rating.
With tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union at their peak during the 1980s, 'Invasion U.S.A.' along with movies like 'Red Dawn' capitalized on the fears some people had that between the rising communist nations in Central America, Cuba, and ultimately Russia, an invasion of America was imminent. Obviously, this never came to pass and as a result movies like 'Invasion U.S.A.' have become amusing little time capsules filled with our fears and our beliefs that our military might is unmatched. Chuck Norris' Matt Hunter is the embodiment of that might. While we had Schwarzenegger waging a one-man war in 'Commando' and Stallone's Balboa kicking Russian butt in 'Rocky IV,' Chuck Norris was the man who stayed behind to defend the homeland, so to speak, and it sets him apart from his contemporaries in a fun cheese-filled way for this particular adventure.
The one man army myth isn't new - it has existed in films since WWII - but 'Invasion U.S.A.' broke the mold. All you need to do is look at the film's infamous cover art to see what I mean. Standing in front of an invasion force that somehow has simultaneously landed in Washington D.C. and New York City is a steely-eyed Chuck Norris with guns akimbo firing away. He's not even looking where he's shooting, and yet it is a beautifully macho representation of 1980s action cinema - and I love everything about it. The movie itself really isn't all that good, to be honest, it's canned cheese at it's finest, but it is so incredibly entertaining that it has grown into becoming one of my favorite 1980s action movies. From Richard Lynch's menacing Rostov to Melissa Prophet's smart-yet-sexy reporter to Eddie Jones' inept Detective Cassidy, this movie is filled with story archetypes and blatant stereotypes to the point that you're either cheering the movie on or laughing directly at the carnage on screen. If you're not hooting and hollering at Billy Drago's Mickey and his character's sudden and incredibly painful violent end, I fear there is no helping you as the rest of the movie just compounds on that one scene.
Prior to the theatrical release, the film was apparently heavily re-edited by Menaham Golan himself and as a result, virtually all character moments and story nuance were thrown out the window favoring a barrage of violence, explosions, and hammy macho line deliveries. If that's all you're after in your entertainment, this flick delivers the goods. I can't really say for sure if that deleted material would have helped or hurt the film - most of it is long lost and will likely never be found - but in its final form, 'Invasion U.S.A.' proves to be a hell of a lot of fun and has aged about as well as a bottle of Mad Dog 20/20. It's a little stiff and can taste pretty bad but it's still good stuff and great for a crowd of people. As I said before, 'Invasion U.S.A.' is not a great movie in the strictest of terms, but it is a great Cannon film and stands as my favorite of their entire library. Now if we could just get 'The Apple' and the 'American Ninja' movies on Blu-ray, life would be about as good as it can get.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Invasion U.S.A.' makes its Blu-ray debut thanks to Shout Factory. Pressed onto a Region A locked BD50 disc, it comes housed in a standard Blu-ray case - sadly no original cover art was created for this release. The disc opens directly to an animated main menu featuring traditional navigation options.
'Invasion U.S.A.' explodes onto HD with a crisp and clean 1.85:1 1080p image transfer. Film grain is visibly intact allowing the image to maintain a strongly detailed film-like appearance. Chuck's beard has never looked better as the film features numerous close-up shots allowing one to appreciate the grizzled appearances of the main characters. Black levels are very strong with strong shadow separation and minimal crush issues. Only once or twice does a character become a floating head due to their dark costume. Colors for much of the film are bright and bold allowing for plenty of primary pop - daylight scenes especially fair the best. Some darker, dusk sequences and a couple of shots that were done day for night tend to look a little too pale and drab losing the rich color pallet. The image has a slight crunchiness to it leading me to think a bit of edge enhancement may have been applied, but the image is absent of any haloing or banding of any kind so if some had been applied it was a minimal amount. Thankfully the print sourced for this transfer is virtually spotless and if there are any instances of speckling or damage, I didn't notice them. From my rot-riddled Laserdisc to the muddy DVD, this Blu-ray presentation is a vast improvement over previous home video releases. The guns, tanks, mullets, denim and beards in this movie have never looked so good.
Of course, 'Invasion U.S.A.' wouldn't be anything worth discussing without an aggressive sound mix and this Blu-ray release comes packed with a DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround mix as well as a DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo mix. Of the two options available, the 5.1 surround mix is the way to go. While the stereo track is perfectly great and sounds natural, the added sense of atmosphere, space, and directionality of the 5.1 track go a long way. During the film's relatively few quiet moments, the track can sound a bit flat and front loaded, but once the action kicks in, the 5.1 track opens up creating a more immersive listening experience. This is especially true during the mall attack sequence where bullets and explosions fill the scene as Chuck Norris drives through shops in his pickup truck and shoots up the bad guys. Both tracks keep to the midranges without any notable spikes or drop-offs. Levels are also set just fine and you shouldn't need to adjust the volume to compensate for lulls in the action since once the movie gets going the explosions virtually never stop.
Audio Commentary: Director Joseph Zito with DVD/Blu-ray producer Michael Felsher provide a heck of a commentary for this one. Zito does drift into telling what is happening on screen occasionally but it's usually because he's going to explain some fun little production fact. All around a great and informative listen.
Loose Cannons: (HD 29:04) Screenwriter James Bruner talks about his time working with The Cannon Group on several Golan/Globus films and how he broke into the industry as a writer on 'An Eye for an Eye' and ultimately getting to work on 'Missing In Action,' 'Invasion U.S.A.' and other great action flicks from the 80s. It's a pretty entertaining piece.
Cannon Carnage - The Makeup Effects of Invasion U.S.A.: (HD 17:48) This is an awesome extra feature with interviews from Tom Savini, Howard Berger, and Greg Nicotero and they talk about how they got to work on 'Invasion U.S.A.' and how they reused effects and left over gear from 'Day of the Dead.'
Theatrical Trailer: (HD 1:33) Probably one of the best action movie trailers ever made.
TV Spot: (SD 00:31)
Braddock: Missing in Action III Trailer: (SD 1:35)
Still Gallery: (HD 2:35)
When you consider that up until just a few years ago 'Invasion U.S.A.' was MGM's second best selling film on home video behind 'Gone With The Wind,' it's amazing that it took this long into Blu-ray's life cycle for the film to get a good and proper HD release. It's still just as incredible as it ever was and stands as a testament to 1980s action cinema machismo while capitalizing on the cultural fears of the era. Plus it's a Chuck Norris flick and aside from 'Top Dog' the man has always been a reliable bet for great entertainment. Shout Factory has done a fantastic job pulling this Blu-ray together featuring a very strong A/V presentation as well as a load of great extra features to keep fans busy. I know this one isn't for everyone but if you're a fan or just love cheesy 80s action movies, 'Invasion U.S.A.' is highly recommended.