VERSUS: Matt Hunter Edition
In 1985 Chuck Norris starred in Invasion USA as Matt Hunter, a former CIA agent who gets dragged back into service after his old Russian nemesis Rostov invades America and carries out terrorist attacks all over the country. The following year Cannon Films decided to make another Matt Hunter movie but Norris was unavailable and the role went to the up-and-coming action star Michael Dudikoff. Dudikoff’s turn as Capt. Matt Hunter took a slightly different approach to the character. While Chuck was a soft-spoken one man army Dudikoff was more of a soft-spoken wrecking crew. The two may seem to be the same but allow me to elaborate further.
Chuck’s portrayal of Matt Hunter, the former CIA agent, now retired and fighting crocs and cruising around the bayou on an airboat was the perfect role for Norris at that time. In fact, I would say that the Chuck of Chuck Norris Facts is most inspired by his performance here in Invasion USA. He was almost always super badass but in Invasion USA he is out of control awesome. The character didn’t say much. Most of his lines have to do with killing someone, reciting sweet one-liners, or reminding Rostov that he’s about to murder him. As you can see he was a very complex character. Dudikoff’s turn as Hunter sees him as a former high-level Secret Service agent who retired to raise his 10 year old sister after the tragic death of their parents from some sort of bomb. Did the writers just forget that Hunter already had somewhat of a back story or did they just not care?
Chuck’s Hunter doesn’t get much depth to him (unless you consider his multitude of killing techniques depth) while the Dudikoff version has Hunter as much more of a real and relatable character. For Chuck, he never seems to be at risk. He literally walks around gunning down bad guys without a care in the world. He is the action equivalent of a Jason Vorhees or Michael Myers. His purpose is one-fold; kill Rostov and all of his dirty communist men. Dudikoff on the other hand quit his Secret Service gig after his parents were killed and he took his little sis back to their ranch to rope steers and wear cowboy hats with their Grandpa Jimmy. He also has an old friend that is running for US Senate that he is totally loyal to and would do anything for. Luckily for us, that friend is played by the amazing Steve James.
On the set of Avenging Force.
Norris’ Hunter rarely gets “dirty” when he’s out bustin’ skulls. He cruises around town in his sweet truck (which never seems damaged even though he crashes it about a dozen times), draped in denim, brandishing dual uzi’s and a seemingly endless supply of bazookas. Rarely does anyone come close to hurting him, let alone physically damaging his denim button-up shirt. There is a small role of a female reporter but Chuck shows her so little attention that she is barely there at all. Normally that would have been a solid love interest for the hero but Norris’ Hunter doesn’t have time for it as he’s too busy fulfilling Rostov’s nightmare, one bazooka at a time.
Dudikoff’s Hunter is a workhorse. While he doesn’t lose any fights (what action star does) he is often times getting pummeled by his enemies before finally turning the tide and finishing them off. He doesn’t even drop any one-liners of note, which must have been hard not to do in the 80’s. Compared to Chuck he causes much less collateral damage but he always gets the job done. The final thirty minutes has him covered in mud and blood, fighting his way out of the swamp (not the same swamp Chuck lived in, or was it) with his little sister in tow. He is never presented as the un-killable machine that Norris was.
Why Norris isn’t a spokesman for Wrangler I will never know.
As you can see, this version of Hunter is quite a bit different from the Norris one. Which one is better? Well that is a matter of opinion, I guess. Which do you like better, John Rambo or John McClane? The answer is they are both amazing! One was an unstoppable war machine while the other bled and had marital issues, just like people in real life. Both of these Matt Hunter movies are great. Avenging Force is my favorite Dudikoff movie and I spent 4 Halloweens in a row dressed as Joe Armstrong from American Ninja. Norris is never better in Invasion USA. He is probably most remembered by others from his Delta Force, Missing in Action, or Walker days but I will always remember Chuck as the denim-wearing, rocket launching, Soviet-smashing badass known as Hunter! So why settle for one Matt Hunter when you can have two?