Chuck Norris may not have attained the same box office glory as Arnie and Sly, but enjoyed a sizeable success during the golden era of home video with a string of hits including Missing in Action and Delta Force. Arguably the apex of Norris’ career came in the mid-eighties when he starred in the excellent Code of Silence for Orion Pictures and several cheesy epics produced by B-movie legends Golan-Globus, of which Invasion USA is a perfect example. The movie sees Chuck in full denim mode playing ex-CIA agent Matt Hunter who is galvanised back into action when his former nemesis, Russian agent Rostov (Richard Lynch), leads a terror attack on the citizens of Florida. Rostov confides to his right hand man that “America hasn’t been invaded by a foreign enemy for nearly 200 years” and soon legions of his cohorts arrive on the beaches and prepare to strike fear into the populace. Much turmoil ensues and when the combined might of both police and military intervention proves to be ineffectual, it’s all down to our double Uzi toting hero to lure the elusive Rostov out of hiding and save the day. The reviews of Invasion USA at its initial time of release were scathing, with esteemed US critic Leonard Maltin calling the movie “repellent in the extreme”. Time Out picked up on Chuck’s lack of thespian skills by commenting that he “doesn’t so much as act but point his beard at the camera”. There are a couple of good one-liners from Norris though, particularly when he threatens a goon with “I will hit you with so many rights that you’re gonna beg for a left”. Admittedly Invasion USA is not a subtle character driven piece, with some dire performances. The late great Richard Lynch proves to be an exception, delivering another truly heinous villain. A major strength of invasion USA is the sheer pace, with very few lulls between the various set pieces. As revealed in the extras, this is down to James Bruner’s screenplay being somewhat truncated at the behest of Cannon to keep the story moving. The real star of the show though is stunt co-ordinator Aaron Norris (Chuck’s brother) and the second unit crew. The action sequences are expertly staged and the fact that this was all done for real on-camera really adds to a sense of realism. The filmmakers seem to have eschewed the use of miniatures or optical FX, commonly used even in big budget action flicks of the time like Die Hard, so those are real locations being blown to pieces and actual tanks trundling down the street. This being a vintage eighties flick, there’s no shoddy looking CGI that has blighted more recent efforts such as Olympus Has Fallen or the Expendables franchise. The editing proves that it is clearly Norris in many of the action scenes, including him hanging precariously to the side of a truck as it ploughs through a shopping mall.
This marks the first time that Invasion USA has been available in the UK on Blu-ray, and the picture quality is a vast improvement compared to the previous grainy DVD from MGM more than 10 years ago. For example, foliage in the Florida Everglades during an early scene look noticeably sharper than it did before, rather than just appearing as an indistinct green backdrop. There does remain some slight grain throughout, particularly evident during certain interior shots.
The audio impresses with a choice of stereo 2.0 and 5.1, greatly enhancing both Jay Chattaway’s rousing score and the myriad gunshots and explosions.
The extras here are different to Shout Factory’s region “A” locked release in the US, which provided both a commentary from director Joseph Zito and an interview with makeup maestro Tom Savini. Not to be outdone, this solid release from 88 Films includes a highly entertaining chat track with action movie expert Bey Logan moderated by Callum Waddel. There are also interviews with editor Daniel Loewenthal (approx. 24 mins) and writer James Bruner (approx. 34 mins). A trailer is included for Invasion USA and other titles from 88 Films. The package also includes a booklet featuring an interview with composer Jay Chattaway.
Invasion USA may not be high art, but as a fast moving old-school slice of exploitation, it certainly delivers.