Thursday, February 28, 2013

In short: Invasion Force (1990)

A low-rent film crew is shooting a movie for Action International Pictures Studios on a wooded mountain somewhere in the US South. The production seems rather ill-fated, though. It's "star" Troy (David "Shark" Fralick aka David Shark) is a mouth-breathing idiot, director Ben Adams (Walter Cox) hates lead actress Joni Marshall (Renée Cline) because she's got her role for being the producer's girlfriend, and Joni isn't too keen on Troy - or her producer boyfriend, for that matter. These problems will turn out to be rather minor, though, once a troop of armed non-US military personnel led by Michael Cooper (Richard Lynch) parachutes in, and decides that they really don't want any witnesses to whatever their surely fiendish plan might be.

The bad guys didn't figure on several things though: Joni turns out to be a natural born low-rent action heroine with curiously good knowledge of automatic weapons as well as a fine hand for decisive ridiculous pep talks. Ben is the kind of guy well able to rise above his lazy director ways once his properly inspired. And special effects guys? They can just do about anything.

Seldom do cheap action productions get as meta as this Action International Pictures Studios movie (see how meta it gets?) directed by - of course - David A. Prior. Not that the film deconstructs its own genre - I rather expect Prior watched F/X before writing the script for this one and thought a bit of self-referentiality would be a good way of keeping another of his Alabama-shot high concept/lower budget action films from becoming as boring as action movies that can't afford that much actual action can easily become.

If you're willing to go with the film (that is, ignore all the typical troubles of this kind of production and ignore silly concepts like logic), Prior's idea is even a good one. Here's a film working hard for providing its audience with some fun in exchange for their video rental fees, and because a handful of explosions (first exploding hut in the movie's first five minutes, exploding hut fans) and some really fake looking shoot-outs probably won't cut it, Prior will attempt to provide an adequate amount of fun via friendly self-referentiality, chummy and obvious yet probably true jokes about filmmaking for little money, and whatever half-baked plot he can barely afford to bring on screen.

Invasion Force convinced me of its special charm early on with its reproduction of the climax of a cheap action movie inside of an even cheaper action movie, and then continued to fight for my heart with Renée Cline's highly spirited scenery-chewing (particularly inspiring for her "pep talk" that'll make you cringe, cry, and laugh in equal manner) that may be bad acting but sure a hell is entertaining especially in contrast with the woodenness of everyone else except for (of course) Richard Lynch, and dialogue that often is rather funny and clever even though the actors (mostly "local talent" to whom the first part of the phrase applies more than the latter one) don't really know how to deliver it properly; the latter makes a film this good-natured and relaxed about its own nature actually more fun to watch.

It shows quite a bit of the true spirit of filmmaking to shoot a film nobody will expect anything of, yet not make the perfunctory bore you could get away with without a problem because nobody cares about films like this. Prior instead puts a bit of charm and love into Invasion Force only a handful of people will ever appreciate. For that, I can only salute David A. Prior.

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