Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Froemming picked “Invasion U.S.A.”
The Movie: “Invasion U.S.A.”
Starring: Chuck Norris, Richard Lynch, Melissa Prophet
Director: Joseph Zito
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) A one-man army comes to the rescue of the United States when a spy attempts an invasion.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 18 percent
Froemming: Back in 2006, I sat in a film studies class at St. Cloud State University. I loved this class, it taught me a lot about cinema, techniques, jargon and how movies impact society. One day, the professor was talking about ’80s cinema and how godawful it was. From the rise of product placement, to the fact most studios used cheap film hence why everything was grainy to how action movies became a propaganda outlet for conservative politics under the Reagan administration.
And to show how shallow films became, he aired this clip to prove his point:
Now, I understood his point here. He was 100 percent right in his observations. But, we have to remember, I also have part of my brain that is lizard and loves this sort of thing for how insanely stupid it is. This scene alone is trash art of the highest caliber.
While the class looked in horror and confusion, I laughed out loud and asked what movie it was, so I could one day see the whole damn thing.
That day has finally come.
This week, Brown and I finally break into the last of the action stars of our youth: Chuck Norris. And the movie is “Invasion U.S.A.”
Brown, as I blast an Eastern European terrorist through a window with a bazooka, what are your first thoughts?
Brown: How we have gone this long without ever doing a Chuck Norris movie is a scathing indictment to the JOE-DOWN.
Froemming: I also think it is, somehow, the first Cannon Films movie we have reviewed as well. How did we go this long without either?
Brown: This is the company that made “Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo.” We would have gotten to Cannon Films eventually.
And technically, they were part of groups that gave the world “Highlander,” “Over the Top” and “Bloodsport.”
Anyways, as college kids of the late 2000s, Froemming and I were drowning in kinda lame Chuck Norris jokes on the internet. Personally, I was always more a fan of Conan O’Brien’s “Walker: Texas Ranger” lever.
As for “Invasion U.S.A.,” the only thing I knew about the movie was the poster with Norris holding uzis in both hands. Otherwise, I knew nothing of this Cold War propaganda film that, frankly, “Red Dawn” did much better a year earlier.
Froemming, I’ll let you get started while I fire up the ol’ airboat.
Froemming: People, if you wanted Fringe Right Wing Porn, this movie opens with Cuban refugees being shot to death by what looks like the Navy. It isn’t the navy, it is Russian terrorists posing as the Navy.
I found it deeply disturbing. I bet Donald Trump found it to be an answer to dealing with immigration. Also, I am coming in hot with my liberal snowflake agenda folks. It is our blog, so…
Brown: I feel like Stephen Miller has this idea in his immigration playbook.
Also, the main guy we see posing as a Naval officer, at first, he looked like the guy who had the hazardous goop spilled on him in “RoboCop.”
Froemming: Um, I thought our main villain here looked like the former bassist for Chicago.
Brown: In the refugee boat, there’s a Tony Montana-approved mountain of cocaine. Froemming, I think this movie suggests that Cuba doesn’t send its finest to America.
Then the opening credits show our hero, Matt Hunter (Norris) riding in an airboat. Sterling Archer would approve.
The Coast Guard comes across the boat, complete with Cuban corpses. And at some point, a reporter shows up and starts harassing the cops about what’s going on here in South Florida.
… Does this breakdown seem scattered? I agree. I can’t say that I remember most of this plot and there’s no way the makers of this movie gave two (REDACTED) about a plot other than hating communists like Dave Foley on “Kids in the Hall.”
Froemming: Matt Hunter is living his peaceful life in Florida, wrestling alligators and hanging out with this friend John Eagle, who would try to teach human trash teenager Zack Morris life lessons.
And then this movie just steals the plot to “Rambo II” and “Manhunter” and every movie ever made in the 1980s it feels like, when some suit sneaks onto his property to try and recruit this soulless ginger of a one-man army into fighting their cause.
Brown: Wait, don’t you mean “Rambo: First Blood Part II?”
Brown: The Rambo naming conventions will confuse all of the world until the sun burns out and we’re all dead.
Yeah, this movie’s structure is so painfully by-the-numbers. Honestly, the only time this movie caught me off-guard was with how over the top they go with some of the violence.
Case in point: when our main villain, Mikhail Rostov, goes into a whorehouse to (I think?) find out Matt Hunter’s whereabouts, Rostov bashes a woman’s head into her metal cocaine snorter like the Joker did to the guy with the pencil in “The Dark Knight.” Then, Rostov shoots a man in the dick (not cool, Butters!) and throws said woman through a second-story window like she’s Marty Jannetty.
Froemming: Yeah, top any of this Michael Bay, you poser!
Well, Rostov finds out where Hunter is, and brings an army of airboats to take him out. They only manage, after what can be guessed to be thousands of rounds blasted, to take out John Eagle.
And then Matt Hunter gives Mr. Eagle the old Darth Vader funeral.
Brown: Question: How did we go through all these Everglades/bayou scenes without a single CCR song, movie?
Froemming: It is a Cannon movie. There was basically no budget on these movies.
Brown: There wasn’t money in the budget with all the Nissan truck product placement later in the flick?
Froemming: There is a good documentary on Cannon Films on Netflix. It’s answer to this question is: No.
Now, with his buddy murdered and home set ablaze because he watched “Return of the Jedi” way too many times, Matt Hunter decides he is going to take out the commie trash and agrees to take out Peter Cetera.
The problem is, how does he find him?
Brown: Not being the music buff that Froemming is, I wrote in my notes that Rostov looks like Ray Liotta all coked out at the end of “Goodfellas.”
Froemming: You’re not wrong.
And while this is going on, we have two horny people on a beach about to bump some uglies. And instead of Jason Vorhees stabbing them to death, we get Latin American terrorists storming this beach like it was Normandy. Literally, it looks like a low-budget “Saving Private Ryan” here. And they don’t even do the killing, some guy named Nikko does. And now, we have a small-scale invasion of the United States! An idea so unbelievable, yet a solid 30 percent of the population here fear this is happening everyday.
Brown: Who exactly is invading America in this movie?
I ask because I watch all these JOE-DOWN movies with the closed caption on and every scene involving these invaders had a mix of [speaking Russian], [speaking German] and [speaking Spanish] with no particular rhyme or reason.
I know the answer is going to be THE COMMUNISTS. But that’s a stupid, lazy answer.
Froemming: Wikipedia says Latin American communists under the rule of Russia’s Peter Cetera cosplayer MVP Rostov.
Brown: THEN WHY ARE THE GERMANS HERE?!
Froemming: I will let Ben Affleck answer this:
Anyways, Reagan’s nightmare has INVADED America as EVERY COMMUNIST EVER invades Florida. And the attack begins in a quaint suburban neighborhood where a family decorating its Christmas tree meets its grizzly end when a group of Reds shoot bazookas at every house.
Let me emphasize this again: COMMIES. ARE. BLOWING. UP. SUBURBIA.
I described this to Froemming, thinking “I’m shocked Fox News doesn’t use clips from this movie on Tucker Carlson to show what Antifa is doing to America.”
We’ll get into it but this is ultimately my biggest problem with “Invasion U.S.A.”: Any other period of my life, I could enjoy this movie. But with the current political/social climate of America, this movie feels too real to life.
Froemming: I actually chose it because it shows how this sort of entertainment puts stupid ideas into people’s heads. I did not know the George Floyd murder was going to happen when I did choose it, but the whole *gestures wildly around* that has been happening for the past few years (decades) made me pick a real good example of propaganda-as-entertainment. This movie puts forth that a foreign power is the reason people start questioning authority and fighting that authority, putting the blame off of the authority figures themselves and ignoring their very real problematic issues.
And this movie, it even acknowledges police are a problem with the following scene, as a bunch of minority kids are having a good time and what looks like cops show up. And they literally make a point that the cops harass these kids every week. Then these terrorist “cops” shoot the hell out of everyone. Thus defeating the purpose and making the cops the victims as they show up later.
Brown: I thought at this point we were moments away from Cartman busting out of a door yelling “RACE WAR!” That would be followed by Dom Toretto and his family drag racing.
Remember when the JOE-DOWN was about reviewing movies about street racing?
While South Florida is going through anarchy, Matt Hunter is walking into a bar called Gil’s, complete with a Confederate flag hanging on the wall. He puts a knife through a man’s hand in hopes of finding where Rostov is. And Chuck Norris does this with the charisma of a Terminator, which is, you know, a robot built specifically WITHOUT charisma.
What I’m trying to say is, Chuck Norris isn’t a good actor. AND, he doesn’t throw a roundhouse kick until 100 minutes into this movie.
Froemming: His character also has the visual design of an 8-bit video game character. All blue (did Norris invest heavily into denim around this time?) and his red (and frankly majestic) mullet.
Brown: Holy (REDACTED), you’re absolutely right. Chuck Norris is dressed like Billy from “Double Dragon” in this movie.
Froemming: With Norris on the hunt for his Russian enemy, what follows until the end of the movie is a series of unrelated action sequences that are, frankly, bat(REDACTED) crazy. First is the mall scene I shared at the start. I am still gobsmacked by how insanely stupid it is and how much I love it.
But now everyone is scared, so martial law is declared! You know, military in the streets enforcing curfews. How is KAREN SUPPOSED TO GET HER HAIR DID IN THIS ENVIRONMENT!?
Brown: You sure we didn’t watch a modern-day documentary?
Also, Rostov shoots another man in the dick. NOT COOL, BUTTERS!
Something that sticks in my mind is that Matt Hunter is trying to have the one-liner to Rostov “It’s time to die.” Dude, “Blade Runner” did it better. And it somehow was less robotic.
After the mall scene, there’s one point where the Commies put a suitcase bomb in front of a building like a bad “Hogan’s Heroes” gag, only for Matt Hunter to throw the suitcase back at the Reds.
Froemming: Not just a building, Brown. They were trying to blow up a church to stick it to The Gipper. Also, this seems like a pretty big city, how did he know this was the church they planned on bombing? Is he Batman or something?
Brown: No, he’s Denim Dan, chairman and CEO of Levi Strauss. Also, I didn’t realize it until seeing this movie: Chuck Norris has some Droopy Dog-like jowls. It’s kind of distracting.
After this, the Commies try planting an explosive on a bus full of kids singing “Row Your Boat,” only for Matt Hunter to remove the bomb from the side of the bus and attach it to the Commies’ car, all without ANYONE on the bus saying or doing anything.
Again, this is a movie scene that could show up on “Hannity” and boomers would think this is how shit is going down in cities around the country because we, I dunno, don’t have God in schools anymore or something?
Froemming: I always thought explosives are volatile, and should not be, you know, shaken around and whatnot. I guess not, based on this movie.
And then our hero goes to a broken down carnival where a ride was blown up? I have no idea what was going on here, but next thing I know is our hero is in some crappy hotel watching an old alien invasion movie (I want to think this was on purpose, but I refuse to give anyone associated with this movie that much credit) when the cops bust in and arrest him. Granted, he did nearly blow up a mall and did a ton of damage to the mall with his truck, so he should not be shocked by this.
Now with Denim Dan in custody and the media reporting on it in great detail for some reason (who is this guy to them?) and Peter Cetera sees his nemesis is now captured, so he puts the whole plan in jeopardy to kill him. For reasons.
Brown: Look man, I wrote in my notes “90 minutes in and I still don’t know the (REDACTED) plot.” Honestly, I should have gotten to that realization sooner.
According to Wikipedia, everything comes to head in Atlanta, where all 50 state governors and military officials meet to find a way to stop the carnage. Seeing that Matt Hunter is in custody, Rostov orders a mass attack where Matt Hunter is held… only, no one is there.
It’s here where the National Guard flanks the Reds and just starts gunning down Commies in a scene that, sorry for being crude, made Reagan cum.
While all this goes down, we get a cat-and-mouse game between Rostov and Matt Hunter, culminating in Hunter shooting Rostov, point blank, with a *checks Wikipedia* missile used to take down tanks?!
Jesus, Chuck Norris!
And again, this is a super jarring moment when, in the explosion, you see Rostov’s foot, among other body parts, flying out of the (REDACTED) window.
Here’s how this scene hit my brain.
I missed you, old friend.
And then, the movie just ends…
Froemming: Yup, cuts right to the credits. They could not afford an actual ending, plus I hear “words” are for “Commies” anyway. Let’s take our airboats down to recommendations!
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Froemming: Look, this is a stupid movie that is fun in its confused — everything. But there are many reasons to check it out. I say give it a watch.
Brown: When the world isn’t burning, fine. It’s a dumb action movie. As of June 16, 2020, this is not the movie I needed in my life.