You know, I’ve never appreciated Chuck Norris. On paper, he’s as badass as they come; black belts in multiple disciplines, roles in countless action movies alongside the crème-de-la-crème of action heroes, a fine beard etc. But I’ve always regarded him as a bit silly, a bit ridiculous, a bit Steven Seagal.
I’d watched a few films of his when I was young and impressionable. I’d witnessed him die countless times in Way of the Dragon. I’d even chuckle at his stiff, denim-clad roundhouse kicks whenever I’d happen upon Walker Texas Ranger on the TV. But I just didn’t respect him.
Until I watched Invasion USA.
While my sources tell me Invasion USA may be the pinnacle of Chuck’s career, it makes up for all dross that ever came before or after. It’s like you can forgive Bruce Willis for all those movies where he doesn’t kill anybody, simply because of Die Hard.
Invasion USA is pretty simple fair. Some rebels (you never know where from, though Wikipedia says Latin America) invade the USA and only Chuck can stop them. For a mere $12 million budget, it features plenty of blue-flame duel-wielded uzis’, more tanks and helicopters than any of the Rambo’s, a bazooka duel, and one of the Three Storms from Big Trouble in Little China. Bargain.
It is non-stop, wall-to-wall action. The very first scene shows about 50 unarmed, dehydrated Cubans being massacred in a boat by the film’s chief villain, burny-faced Mikhail Rostov. It’s as good a way as any for the audience to know “yeah, these are the shit heads of the film”. You then follow it up with the scene below, and you know you’re in for a treat.
Chuck, Matt Hunter, is elsewhere while the planned invasion takes form. He’s living in the swamps, zipping around on one of those airboats that were the rage in the 80’s. He had the chance to kill Rostov before, but chose to kick him in the face instead. He’s retired now and spends his time wrestling crocodiles, cracking wise with the locals, and feeding his pet armadillo. That’s right, a fucking armadillo. I’ve seen some random movie pets before – dogs, cats, mice, weird alien things, but never an armadillo. But Chuck has one, and you’ll rue the day if you choose to mess with it.
One thing that helped earn Chuck my respect was that it’s clearly him doing a lot of the stuff in the film. Not just the stunts and the karate, either. He actually wrestles a crocodile. Yeah it’s hogtied, but I doubt Stallone would ever mess with it. He’s also clearly at ease handling an airboat, along with multiple other weapons and vehicles. My favourite scene is where some crazy bitch reported gets up in his face after he rescues her.
She’s all “why did you wait until the last minute to save me?” and he responds “dramatic effect yo”. Not their exact words, but that’s not the point. The point is she then takes a swing at him. And without looking he deflects it. It looks so good, so badass, so Arnie-breaking-the-bouncers-hand-in-the-Terminator awesome, that I’d almost guess it was unscripted. There are so many moments like this in the film, so many throw away lines and dead-pan quips from Chuck.
Similar to Seagal film’s he barely even gets a scratch, and still manages to repel the entire invasion effectively on his own. His foil, Rostov, is played by veteran TV actor Richard Lynch who had actually set himself on fire in his youth. His weird half-melted face and his acting talent (which is firmly set to Ham-mode in this film) provide the perfect nadir to Chuck’s stony visage.
A lot of it doesn’t make perfect sense I’ll admit. Like how Chuck knows where each of the terrorist cells are located. Or why he drives down one street so slow that it allows a procession of pimps, hookers, bikers, meth-heads and other low-lifers to give him lip. But none of this really springs to mind in any meaningful way whilst watching (or should I say Experiencing) this film.
An honest complaint would be that there isn’t much blood. Nor are there any eagle cries when he disappears like Batman every now and then. There are plenty of explosions however, and some brief nudity. Some parts are genuinely well done too, such as the final siege with the tanks, the “roll-out” moment with the trucks as the invasion begins, and the decimation of American small-town suburban Christmas.
Just look at this kill count video to show the variety of murdering done by Chuck alone. You have the invaders doing all kinds of shady stuff, like trying to blow up school buses, stamp on puppies or explode churches. In fact the last one shows Chuck at his most forlorn. Watch below:
The way he says “now it will” makes him sound sad. It’s like he’s bummed out his retirement home got annihilated and that there is no one else with the balls or the brains to take down Rostov. Goddamn the CIA for not allowing him to kill him last time. If only they’d listened…This is depth. Something you wouldn’t normally expect in a Chuck movie. Thankfully this reticence doesn’t prevent Chuck from saving the day and killing everyone else.
My previous experience with Chuck (ignoring his self-referential cameo in the Expendables sequel) was the re-release of the Octagon. This hilariously dreadful movie highlighted why I’d never considered Chuck amongst the elite. Years before this I think the last film I saw him in was Sidekicks that featured Chuck as himself whom is enlisted to help a young kid defeat a bunch of bullies and win a karate tournament. Not exactly Robocop, is it?
Invasion USA has changed my opinion. It isn’t mind-bending with twists, or as deep as the ocean with any morality or ethics. It is just an action movie from the 80’s – But what an action movie. Watch it and you will see why Chuck is considered a legend by so many, myself now included.