Released by: Shout! Factory Released on: March 15th, 2016. Director: Joseph Zito Cast: Chuck Norris, Richard Lynch Year: 1985 Purchase From Amazon
Invasion U.S.A., produced by Cannon Films in 1985, tells the story of a man’s man named Matt Hunter (Chuck Norris). Retired from his work at the C.I.A., Hunter now lives a quiet life in the Florida everglades where he hangs out with his pet armadillo, occasionally helps his pals catch alligators, drives around in an airboat and amasses a wardrobe comprised entirely of denim. But we don’t learn about Matt Hunter first. No, before we get to that we meet Mikhail Rostov (Richard Lynch) who first appears on an American Coast Guard boat that approaches a vessel adrift at sea carrying some Cuban refugees to a new life of freedom in America. When Rostov and his crew approach the refugees they welcome them to America but the smiles on the faces of the men, women and children aboard quickly turn to frowns when they’re gunned down with no mercy. Rostov is that kind of guy and he’s leading a gang of international terrorists on a mission to infiltrate American society.
The C.I.A. figures out what’s going on but they’re not going to be able to stop it without the help of one man – Matt Hunter. But Matt? No dice, he doesn’t want to come back to a life of death, not when he has everything he wants right there in the swamp. Meanwhile, Rostov shoots a coke dealer (Billy Drago) in the dick and throws his girlfriend out the window. Things are heating up. When the actual invasion begins and the cool old guy who lives in the swamp shack next to Matt turns out to be a casualty in all of this, well, that’s just what Hunter needed to get his ass back in gear.
Before you know it, he’s waging a one man war to save America, but will it be enough?
Of course it will. This is Chuck Norris at the height of his powers and there’s no better showcase for the unstoppable for that was eighties era Chuck than Invasion U.S.A.. Someone better tell Rostov it’s time to die! Seriously though, this is the type of movie that Chuck was perfect for. He’s a man of few words, but when he speaks, you damn well listen. Yeah, fine, his dialogue is almost entirely comprised of tough guy speak and witty one liners but you don’t want Chuck to flex as an actor, you want Chuck to flex his biceps as he wields twin Uzi’s against a literal army of terrorists. And that’s EXACTLY what you get with this film. Invasion U.S.A. doesn’t fuck around. It sets up the story, establishes the fact that Rostov is a horrible man (Lynch plays him perfectly) who needs to be stopped, and then gives Chuck’s character sufficient motivations to do just that. Yeah, there’s a subplot or two involving Hunter’s past and a female reporter played by Melissa Prophet but those don’t really matter so much. Director Joseph Zito is smart enough to keep things focused primarily on Hunter and his quest and the movie is all the better for it.
As to scope and scale, this is a big one by Cannon standards. The producers (and this is detailed in the extras) had access to a suburb that was going to be torn down when the Atlanta airport needed to expand. As such, when you see the terrorists going around blowing up suburban America, you really are seeing people blowing up suburban America. This gives the film a bit more realism than it would have had otherwise, though really, realism isn’t so much a factor here. The other major set piece in the film is, of course, the scene where Hunter’s chasing bad guys through a massive shopping mall – again, cinematic destruction on a pretty epic scale is on display, and it’s glorious. Add to all of this a body count that goes well over a hundred corpses and some pretty bloody, squib-tastic effects (many of which were handled by Howard Berger, Greg Nicotero and Tom Savini) and some awesome rocket launcher scenes and you’ve got one of the crown jewels in the Cannon Films collection.
Invasion U.S.A. arrives on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory in its proper 1.85.1 aspect ratio in a pretty solid looking AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer. This isn’t reference quality but it is a noticeable step up from the old DVD release in every way that you’d want it to be. Colors look good and the image is pretty clean, showing only occasional and mild print damage. Black levels are decent but occasionally inconsistent. Compression artifacts aren’t a problem, however, and there aren’t any obvious issues with noise reduction or edge enhancement. Depth, texture and detail do take advantage of the format – generally it looks really good, just not mind blowingly perfect.
English language audio options are provided in your choice of DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo or 5.1 Surround Sound with optional subtitles provided in English only. The stereo track has a bit more power behind it while, not surprisingly, the 5.1 mix spreads out the effects and the score a bit more. Both sound good, with solid bass response kicking in to give the gun shots and explosions some welcome punch. Levels are fine throughout and there are no issues with any hiss or distortion. Dialogue is clean, clear and easy to follow and the score has a decent amount of depth to it.
Extras start off with an audio commentary by director Joseph Zito that covers pretty much everything you’d want it to. He talks about his working relationship with both stars Chuck Norris and Richard Lynch as well as what it was like working with Golan and Globus on the film. He talks up the stunts, the locations, the script and a lot more. It’s a busy but engaging track that covers a lot of ground and as such, it’s worth listening to, particularly if you’re a Cannon Films junkie.
From there we get a lengthy interview with writer James Bruner who speaks for roughly half an hour about how Cannon Films was his own personal film school where he got a trial by fire education in the business. He talks about working on this film with Golan and Globus and also talks about how Avenging Force was originally intended to be a sequel to this movie. He also shares some stories about his relationship with Norris and about working with him on a few other movies like Missing In Action and Delta Force. A second featurette interviews special effects makeup artists Tom Savini, Howard Berger, and Greg Nicotero for eighteen-minutes or so about their work on the picture. They talk about taking on this project shortly after finishing Day Of The Dead and what a kick it was seeing their work get a wide release like this. They also talk about some of the work that was required to be done in a ridiculously short period of time while Savini shares a funny story about why you shouldn’t use Berger and Nicotero as babysitters, even if you’re in a bind.
Outside of that we get a theatrical trailer, a quick TV spot, a still gallery, a trailer for Braddock: Missing In Action III (also available from Shout! Factory), menus and chapter selection.
The Final Word:
Eighties cinematic excess is rarely as fun and completely over the top as it is in Invasion U.S.A., the Chuck Norris film to beat. Shout! Factory has given this blockbusting ballbuster a pretty great Blu-ray release with a spiffy high definition presentation and the extra features that it has so justly deserved all these years. Highly recommended.
Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!