Invasion U.S.A. (1985)

While Invasion U.S.A. isn't the worst movie we've seen for Mainlining Christmas, it could be among the most stupid. Almost every element of the film is awful. It's an idiotic piece of schlock crammed with every imaginable 80s cliche that astonishingly believes it has something important to say.

Oh, and it's set at Christmas.

The film stars Chuck Norris as Florida man, Matt Hunter, a former special... something... who's retired from a career killing bad guys in developing nations to a humble life of riding around the Everglades in an airboat. He's asked to come out of retirement when the government learns that a Soviet agent has aligned with communist terrorists from Central and South America in order to launch an assault on the U.S.

Matt Hunter turns down the job but reconsiders when his old nemesis, Mikhail Rostov, blows up his home and best friend. The terrorists kill a boatload of refugees, murder a drug dealer, kill a couple of teenagers on a beach, attack a Christmas party at a community center, and blow up a suburban neighborhood using rocket launchers.

It should be noted that the producers got permission to blow up an actual neighborhood scheduled for demolition. The scene is still bad due to poor cinematography, but the explosions were about as close as the movie came to offering anything impressive.

They also got to wreck part of a mall being torn down, which transitions us into the next part of this discussion: the terrorist attacks interrupted by Matt Hunter. He also prevented them from blowing up a church and a busload of kids in a handful of sequences that were almost unintentionally funny enough to be interesting. Almost.

If you feel like I'm not providing much connective tissue between these sequences, it's because there's really not much to delve into. The movie plays out almost like a disaster film, starting with devastation then moving onto triumph and survival. They establish a handful of villains, but they're just meaningless caricatures (and - no big surprise given the era - most of these depictions are at least somewhat racist).

The bad guys are basically Cobra, and the good guy is more or less an amalgamation of G.I. Joe. This came out in 1985, around the same time G.I. Joe really took off, so it's not too much of a stretch wonder if this was maybe an homage (or rip-off, if you prefer).

The villain is almost fun in his absurdity, but he lacks any development or depth. Everyone - good guys included - act as if he's the most dangerous criminal on Earth, despite the fact he doesn't really do anything that seems intelligent. He's terrified of Hunter due to a run in they had in their past (which is shown in a rather underwhelming flashback), and spends most of his screen time whining about how they need to kill his enemy.

Eventually, Hunter sets an overly elaborate trap, luring the entire terrorist army into a showdown with the National Guard. Meanwhile, he battles Rostov in a fight that culminates in a duel with rocket launchers which sounds way cooler than it actually is.

The movie is a jumbled mismatch of tones. Half the time, you can't tell if something is supposed to be funny or horrifying. Norris goes through this movie with such a limited range of emotion, you could basically strap two Uzis to a windup robot and get the same effect. The choreography makes almost no use of his martial arts background, aside from letting him awkwardly kick a few guys.

I mentioned earlier this movie thought it had something to say. This was intended to be a cautionary tale about how unprepared we were for foreign invasion of this sort. And, of course, there was a kernel of truth to that. But the movie was so wildly and absurdly unrealistic in its depiction of that threat, it comes off as ridiculous.

So, let's talk Christmas.

It takes Invasion U.S.A. around forty minutes to hint what season it is, but once it does, it's fairly obvious why they wanted it set at the holidays. The scene where the terrorists fire a dozen or so rockets into the warm, decorated houses of American families is about as unsubtle as you can get. Something, something, contrasting joy of season, something violence and evil. Not original, even in 1985.

And this did it all worse than usual. The Christmas elements were blatant without being developed; you can immediately see what they were going for, but I can't imagine anyone feeling any sort of emotion while watching this.

Except, of course, for boredom.