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A Golan-Globus Production. For those unfamiliar with the 80s giants of schlock and excess, I suggest you seek out "Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films" and see first hand the cinematic treasures and atrocities (sometimes the two were one and the same) unleashed upon filmgoers of the 1980s. For the familiar, you know already what you were in store for when that three word phrase opened a movie. Of all the Golan-Globus/Cannon productions that were box office successes and bombs, I will argue none distilled the insanity of 80s action cheese and rampant jingoism than "Invasion USA", a Chuck Norris action vehicle that preyed upon all our biggest community fueled, xenophobic fears and simultaneous desire for a beacon of machismo to keep us safe in our capitalist wonderland.
Opening with a shockingly convoluted premise (it takes probably 30-minutes before everything is clear), "Invasion USA" answers the age-old question of , "what would happen if a Soviet terrorist led a multi-ethnic coalition of mercenaries ashore through Florida?" Leading this expedition of terror into our nation's number one retirement state is Rostov, a character brought to life on the big screen in a way only possible from a Richard Lynch performance. Lynch, bringing a sense of physical dread to the screen one might expect from Klaus Kinski sans the possibly real-life insanity, leaves an indelible impression on viewers as he turns a simple drug deal into a bloodbath for poor Billy Drago and his nameless coke-snorting henchwoman. It's a scene that sums up the sense of logic and "emotion" driving "Invasion USA" along its nearly two-hour runtime. Every foe needs his mirror and for all the menace and savagery Lynch brings to the table, he is matched note for note with near emotional apathy and endless action heroism in the form of Matt Hunter (Chuck Norris in a role that sees him in a Canadian Tuxedo for nearly the entire feature), a not-so mild-mannered ex-special forces soldier/mercenary turned backwaters Everglades resident.
Spawned from the minds of brother Aaron Norris (who also brought us the only TV series ever nominated for a Pulitzer Prize (or maybe not, I can't remember for sure), "Walker, Texas Ranger") and James Bruner' and directed by a true craftsman of 80s excess, Joseph Zito, "Invasion USA" isn't just an entry into 80s action cinema, it IS 80s action cinema. Much like its star Chuck Norris, "Invasion USA" is a force of nature, moving from outrageous set-piece to even more outrageous set-piece with a single minded goal of working audiences into a frenzy for Matt Hunter to dispense the most over-the-top Americanized Justice imaginable. How does a film top a scene that features our antagonists blowing up houses full of families preparing for Christmas? Simple; it blows up a mall full of Christmas shoppers and sees fit to top that by having terrorists plant a bomb on a school bus full of kids. Three decades prior, this violence spoke to our wildest imagined fears; in the present day, it's a chilling reality and possibility we no longer consider absurd. Yet, being an (un)intentional piece of American propaganda, "Invasion USA" doesn't let us dwell too long on the horrors of terrorism before Hunter bursts on the scene to casually kill every breathing terrorist on-screen swiftly and coldly, and as quick as he arrives, he often vanishes, only to apparate like a backwoods Batman on the next scene of tragedy or impending horror.
Strip away the boogeyman themes and "Invasion USA" is your standard, loud, 80s action film. It's never meant to inspire one to pause and reflect on anything but the moment; under close scrutiny the narrative is flimsy at best. However, Zito's direction, the capitalization on fear, and the casting of Norris, perhaps the outright king of wooden acting, and "Invasion USA" provides viewers with everything they could ever hope for from a film of the time period and genre. The action is real and from a time before CGI; when something explodes, it's really exploding and when someone is hanging from the window of a speeding car, well, you get the idea. "Invasion USA" was not a cheap film, running $12.5 million dollars in 1985, it barely made its box office back and frankly that's a shame. It should have been received as what it is, the pinnacle of 80s movie excess and b-movie greatness. Instead it ushered in an era of Norris doing tired sequels before eventually transitioning to TV. Director Zito, would make one more big budget effort, "Red Scorpion" (a noteworthy box office disappointment) before quietly retiring until a few small productions in the early 2000s.
Much like Matt Hunter let his long time foe Rostov know at the climax of the film, "it's time" indeed. Time for "Invasion USA" to be rediscovered for a new generation to marvel at a point in time of 80s filmmaking where logic and polish could easily be trounced by fearmongering and chaos. After 107 minutes of perpetual ante-upping and Norris turning in a deadpan performance where no solitary soul would have the time nor forethought to realize our hero is just as much of a raving psychotic as our villain, "Invasion USA" cements its legacy as a reminder of how shallow the 80s could be and yet how satisfying they could be. Despite all its fear mongering and thin plotting, "Invasion USA" remains an absurd hallmark in cinematic history; it's a film we'll never get ever again (at least without some veil of smug irony mocking the whole genre) and should never get again.
The 1080p 1.85:1 transfer is a bit of a revelation. For years "Invasion USA" existed in my mind as either a tired VHS or average DVD offering from MGM. Shout Factory offers up a very solid HD transfer here. Colors are as natural as one would expect from the time period and genre. Not overly warm, but not truly lifelike. Detail is above average and there's a shocking lack of grain; night scenes look far too clear than they should be and there's suspicion of some minor DNR. Overall, contrast levels are slick and balanced, offering up "Invasion USA" in a fashion that likely rivals its big screen premiere in overall presentation.
The English Stereo DTS-HD MA track is well-balanced on the dialogue/effects/score front. Dialogue is warm and vibrant, while the score can be tinny at times by design. There's some decent use of the surrounds, but overall, it's not nearly as immersive as could be expected, notably during the chaotic mall set-piece that occurs around the midpoint of the film. There is however, healthy LFE work and when the explosions come rolling in waves, you'll appreciate it. English subtitles are included.
Extras for this Blu-Ray debut of "Invasion USA" are incredibly thoughtful. The feature-length commentary with the Blu-Ray producer and director Zito is nearly worth the price of admission on its own. Zito is very candid in his thoughts, not afraid to make fun of the errors in logic, but at the same time is proud of his work making a very practical action film. There is also a nearly 30-minute interview with screenwriter James Bruner as well as separate 20-odd-minute interview with effect makeup artists Tom Savini, Howard Berger, and Greg Nicotero that is fascinating for not just fans of the film, but fans of the men's individual career efforts. Rounding out matters is a theatrical trailer and TV spot for the film.
Never did I think I'd see the day where "Invasion USA" had a Blu-Ray release, let alone one with pretty spiffy A/V and a host of quite worthwhile bonus features. The only thing missing from the release is the presence of Chuck himself, but given his political nature in the past decade, I'm not shocked he'd distance himself from a product that is a scathing indictment of the mindset of the most extreme. "Invasion USA" is a must own film for even the most passing action fan. The pinnacle of 80s extremism in films, this Blu-Ray is the real deal. DVD Talk Collector Series.