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Episode Studies by Clayton Barr

The Expendables The Expendables
Story by David Callaham
Screenplay by David Callaham and Sylvester Stallone
Directed by Sylvester Stallone


The Expendables take on a military ruler and his ex-CIA sponsor after a coup on the Latin American island nation of Vilena.


Read the movie summary at Wikipedia


Characters appearing or mentioned in this film


(Where relative, I have added the name of the actor who plays the character in the movies for aid in visualizing the characters)


Barney Ross (actor Sylvester Stallone)

Lee Christmas (actor Jason Statham)

Yin Yang (actor Jet Li)

Hale Caesar (actor Terry Crews)

Gunner Jensen (actor Dolph Lundgren)

Toll Road (actor Randy Couture)


Tool (actor Mickey Rourke)


General Garza

James Munroe (actor Eric Roberts)

Dan Paine (actor Steve Austin)

Mr. Church (actor Bruce Willis)

Trench Mauser (actor Arnold Schwarzenegger)

Sandra Garza 


Didja Know?


The Expendables franchise is an action film series created by Sylvester Stallone, featuring a rotating ensemble of action film stars from the 1980s-90s, with some 21st Century action stars tossed in as well. The films celebrate the action films and character types of the '80s and '90s. Many of the characters' names are intentional send-ups of macho-sounding male names, ethnic/cultural parody names, or the codenames of characters played by the actors in the past.


Didja Notice?


The opening scene of the movie depicts the Expendables riding into their "clubhouse" on motorcycles and choppers. This short, ~1 minute long sequence may be interpreted as their arrival for the get-together that occurs at the end of the movie after returning to the States from their victory on the island of Vilena. Notice that, as Barney's chopper pulls into a close shot at the end of the scene, the skull painted on his bike's gas tank has a faintly visible sunken eyeball in the right (screen left) socket. I surmise it is Barney's bike because it's leading the pack. The same skull-and-raven image is seen many times in the movie as tattoos on the various members of the Expendables and also on the hilt of Gunner's blade and on Lee's motorcycle, etc.; it is the official logo of the Expendables mercenary team. Barney's chopper


The action opens upon a commercial oil tanker that has been taken over by pirates in the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Somalia. The Gulf was a hotbed of pirate activity in the late 2000s when this film was made; it has since calmed with the presence of international navy vessels and private security.

Gulf of Aden


At 2:24 on the Blu-ray, the ship is seen to be one of FESCO (Far East Shipping Company), a Russian company. According to the Vladivostok Times, the ship used in the film was the Russian SA-15 class Arctic cargo ship Igarka.


At 3:50 on the Blu-ray, the Somali pirate is using a Panasonic VHS-C camcorder to record their message to the corporate owners of the ship.


The Somali pirates are largely armed with AK-47 variant rifles.


During the oil tanker assault, Barney and Yang are armed with FN F2000 Tactical assault rifles (Yang also uses an FN P90), Lee and Toll with Heckler & Koch MP5Ks, Caesar with a Saiga 12.


Gunner uses an M79 grenade launcher to blow a Somali pirate in half.


Barney also carries a pair of Kimber Gold Combat II pistols which he is able to reload extremely rapidly. He uses a Single Action Army (designed by Colt in 1873) to take down a number of pirates at 7:17 on the Blu-ray. Barney uses these same Kimber pistols at times in the later films Expendables 2 and Expendables 3, as well.


Barney is seen to wear a Panerai Luminor watch in this opening sequence.


As pointed out in the study of "THE NIGERIAN PRINCE", the floatplane Barney flies here is not the same one used there. Previously, it was a Cessna or something; here, it is a 1949 Grumman HU-16 Albatross. Maybe he has more than one floatplane or maybe the first one was wrecked in a mission in between; he flies different planes in both Expendables 2 and Expendables 3, as well.


The song playing as the Expendables head back to America in the floatplane is 1986's "Keep Your Hands to Yourself" by the Georgia Satellites.


On the plane, Toll is seen reading The Survivors Club, a 2002 mystery-thriller by Lisa Gardner about three women who are rape survivors who help the police catch the perpetrator and then come under suspicion for his murder. Notice that Toll wears reading glasses to read.


Although it's never seen fully, notice at 9:18 on the Blu-ray that an image of a sexy woman is painted on the plane's bulkhead behind Yang.


As Lee leaves the cockpit at 9:39 on the Blu-ray, notice a poster of a cowboy hangs on the bulkhead to the left of the cockpit door. We don't get much of a look at it, but it might be John Wayne (1907-1979).


At 9:47 on the Blu-ray, the skull tattoo on Gunner's right shoulder is essentially the same stylized skull that is on Barney's "lucky" skull ring; it is also seen as the design on the dartboard in Tool's tattoo parlor later on. Another stylized skull image is painted behind Gunner on the plane's bulkhead in this shot.



At 11:10 on the Blu-ray, Lee is seen to have Öhlins shock absorbers on his Ducati Desmosedici RR motorcycle.


Lee's girlfriend Lacy is played by Charisma Carpenter, best known for her role as Cordelia Chase on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel TV series.


Lee tries to give Lacy a ruby ring he picked up on Burma. Burma is a country in Southeast Asia, now more commonly known as Myanmar, known for its repressive and abusive military regime, which may account for a past mission there by the Expendables.


The song playing as Tool rides into his tattoo parlor with Cheyenne where Barney is waiting for him is "Keep on Chooglin'" by Creedence Clearwater Revival (1968).


When Tool's new girlfriend reminds him her name is Cheyenne, he says, "Arapaho, Cherokee, Pawnee..." These, like the woman's name of "Cheyenne" are all the names of American Indian tribes.


The tattoos on Barney's chest and back are Stallone's actual tattoos. He has said he initially started getting them to cover up the various scars he's received shooting his action films over the past few decades.


Tool is putting the finishing touches on Barney's Expendables tattoo, adding the final few letters of the name. But why would Barney, the ostensible leader of the group, seemingly be the last of them to get the "official" tattoo?! Everyone else already has it! And in The Expendables 3, we see that even long-gone former member, Conrad Stonebanks, has the tattoo on his arm, faded a bit over the years, so it's not a new logo for them or anything.


While he is finishing Barney's tattoo, Tool remarks on a mission in Nigeria he and Barney participated in at some point in the past. The Expendables also undertook a mission in Nigeria in "THE NIGERIAN PRINCE", but the mission described here appears to be a different one, as Barney and Tool were not severly injured in "THE NIGERIAN PRINCE".


Tool asks Lee to let him tattoo Charlotte's web on his head. Charlotte's Web is a 1952 children's novel by E. B. White, about a barn spider named Charlotte who befriends a pig named Wilbur on the farm.


Rogue CIA operative James Munroe is depicted has having seized control of the Central American island of Vilena with the aid of that country's General Garza; Trench says it is in the Gulf (this would be the Gulf of Mexico). Vilena is a fictitious nation; the Vilena scenes were filmed largely on location in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The rogue operative's name may be based on that of the fifth U.S. President (1817-1825), James Monroe, whose major foreign policy initiative came to be known as the Monroe Doctrine, a largely successful plan to prevent further incursion of European (and Russian) colonialism in the Western Hemisphere through the end of the 19th Century.


At 17:16 on the Blu-ray, a red and white sign at the entry barrier of General Garza's palace on Vilena says ALTO. This is Spanish for "stop". 


Mr. Church remarks that "Barney Ross" is probably not Barney's real name. Barney doesn't deny it. Since The Expendables was made a couple years after the supposed "final" Rambo film of Sylvester Stallone (2008's Rambo), at the end of which Rambo returned to the United States, maybe Barney is really John Rambo!
--In 1982's First Blood, Rambo is a drifter loner who misses the camaraderie of a unit in wartime; by starting a mercenary team, he could be around men like himself and establish bonds and loyalty again.

--Notice that a Raven is part of the Expendables skull emblem; First Blood reveals that Raven was one of Rambo's code names in his special forces unit in Vietnam.

--Barney's tattoos could be covering the torture scars Rambo had on his upper chest and back.

--In The Expendables 2, he tells Maggie that bad things have happened to people he's gotten close to; his compatriots have tended to get killed in the three Rambo sequel films of 1985-2008.

--And, last but definitely not least, an important set of quotes in Rambo: First Blood Part II are:

Co Bao: Why did they pick you? Because you like to fight?
Rambo: I'm expendable.
and Co Bao: no expendable.
On the other hand, some dialog in the film gives the impression that Barney has been either active-military or a mercenary for quite some time, which does not seem to have been the case from what we know of Rambo from about 1982-2008 in the Rambo films.

Update 2/7/2020: A fifth Rambo film, Rambo: Last Blood, was released on September 20, 2019. In it, John Rambo lives on the horse ranch formerly owned by his late father (which we saw him walking towards at the end of 2008's Rambo). Here, Rambo is simply Rambo and no intimation of his ever having assumed an alias or been part of a mercenary team is made. So, I suppose Barney Ross was never John Rambo.


Arnold Schwarzenegger's character is named Trench Mauser in the credits and promotional materials, but Barney sounds like he calls him "Trent" when they are reunited for the first time in years during the meeting with Mr. Church. The Expendables Wiki seems to consider "Trent" his real name and "Trench" a nickname.


As Trench is about to leave the meeting in the church, he hands Barney a cigar. Schwarzenegger is known for his love of cigars and often giving an expensive one to his friends when they meet.


As Trench walks away, Mr. Church asks, "What's his fuckin' problem?" and Barney responds, "He wants to be president." At the time the film was shot, Schwarzenegger was the governor of California, with some of his supporters wishing he could run for U.S. President, but he is ineligible as he was not born a U.S. citizen.


At 22:17 on the Blu-ray, as Barney pulls into Tool's in his truck, the wall to the left of the garage door has the spray-painted word "Full" on it and the wall to the right is spray-painted "Empty". A number of gas tank canisters sits on the "Full" side.


The truck Barney drives here is a 1955 Ford F-100.


At 24:22 on the Blu-ray, Toll Road brings up the issue of his ear. He has a cauliflower ear, a permanent swelling of the outer ear tissue caused by a serious blow. This was not a prosthetic for the character; actor Randy Couture is a former mixed martial-artist and wrestler who suffered injuries in the ring which left both of his ears cauliflowered. Many such athletes have had one or both ears injured in this manner. Toll explains that he received the injury while wrestling in college; this is a reference to Couture's own past professions.


After Toll tells his story of the cauliflower ear, Caesar asks, "And your point is..?" to which he responds, "It ain't easy bein' green." This refers to the 1970 song "Bein' Green", performed by Kermit the Frog on Sesame Street. The song is about lamenting, and finally embracing, the differences an individual has compared to others.


At 24:59 on the Blu-ray, the Expendables floatplane is seen to be painted as if it is an aircraft belonging to the Global Wildlife Conservancy. Notice also that the raven perched on top of the globe symbol on the plane's tailfin is essentially the same one seen perched on top of the skull emblem of the Expendables in previous scenes!
Expendable tattoo Global Wildlife Conservancy
Expendable tattoo Global Wildlife Conservancy emblem


The song that plays as Barney and Lee fly to Vilena to scope out the situation is "Mississippi Queen" by Mountain (1970).


The cap Barney wears as an ornithologist with the Global Wildlife Conservancy has a cartoonish image of a whale and the words "Live Simply" on it. "Live Simply" is a clothing line by outdoor clothing company Patagonia, which supports environmental causes. An ornithologist is a scientist who studies birds.


The scenes of the bay the plane lands in and docks at were shot at Mangaratiba in the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.


Lee is carrying a Canon EOS Mark II camera in his disguise as a wildlife photographer.


At 27:36 on the Blu-ray, a propaganda poster for General Garza has the words "libertad y fuerza" on it. This is Spanish for "liberty and strength".


When Lee corrects his Spanish as they head for the Gloria Cantina, Barney asks him, "Who are you? Zorro?" Zorro is the heroic secret identity of the fictional character Don Diego de la Vega, a California nobleman of Spanish descent during Spanish rule in the 19th Century, created in 1919 by pulp writer Johnston McCulley (1883-1958).


At 28:33 on the Blu-ray, a banner in the small port town on Vilena reads "El que sea de Vilena, que me siga! --General Garza". This is Spanish for "Those of Vilena, follow me!" Another banner seen in the town square is harder to make out, but it reads something like, "El doctrina que defiende la primacia dle ejer en lad sociedad recibe el nombrea de militaria", which means something like "The doctrine that defends the primacy of society in the name of the military."


At 28:55 on the Blu-ray, Paine shouts "Vamanos!" This is Spanish for "Let's go!"


The motor scooter seen at 29:01 on the Blu-ray is a Piaggio Vespa.


At 29:06 on the Blu-ray, we see the flag of Vilena, with General Garza's portrait vainly imposed over it.

Vilena flag


When Barney and Lee first meet their contact, Sandra, in the Cantina, Lee gives her their names as Buddha and Pest (Lee and Barney).


At 30:26 on the Blu-ray, a sign for Guaraná is seen on the back wall of the cantina. Guaraná is a guarana fruit soft drink made in Peru.


Sandra's truck is a Brazilian Ford F-1000.


Munroe complains to Garza about the lack of progress in growing the coca plant crops. Coca plant is used as the source of the psychoactive alkaloid, cocaine, indicating Munroe's real interest in having sponsored the coup on Vilena.


At 34:11 on the Blu-ray, the sign reads "Area Militar--Prohibido Passar". This is Spanish for "Military Area--Entry Prohibited".


The truck used by Garza's soldiers when they find Sandra and Barney observing the palace is an AM General M-35.


At 35:53 on the Blu-ray, Barney swipes a Beretta 92FS from one of Garza's men and uses it against him. He continues to carry the same gun until he drops it on the dock to jump onto the moving floatplane about 5 minutes later in the film.


As one of her father's soldiers drags her towards the truck at 36:36 on the Blu-ray, she shouts at him, "Puto!" This is a Spanish term for a male prostitute. Later in the film, another soldier refers to her as a puta, a female prostitute.


The truck Munroe rides around in while on Vilena is a Land-Rover Defender 130 Crew Cab.


At 38:22 on the Blu-ray, Restaurant Oceano is seen on Vilena.


When Lee boards the floatplane and races into the cockpit at 39:16 on the Blu-ray, the "John Wayne" poster seen hanging there earlier in the film is gone.


At 39:25 on the Blu-ray, a business with the sign Drogarias Lider is seen on the bay. Drogarias Lider appears to be Portuguese for "Leader Drugstore".


At 40:00 on the Blu-ray, an arch on the enterance to the streetfront reads Despacho Aduanero, Puerto de Vilena. This is Spanish for "Customs Clearance, Port of Vilena". A door on a small building to the right of the arch has the word Aduana above it, meaning "Customs house".


At 40:19 on the Blu-ray, Barney is suddenly no longer carrying his pistol in his right hand as he runs on the dock towards the floatplane. Seconds later, he's carrying it again, but drops it on the dock so he can have both hands free to grab onto the hatchway of the plane as it begins to pull away.


Large fuel canisters are seen stacked on the dock. At 40:47 on the Blu-ray, one is seen to be labeled Mobil.


At 42:00 on the Blu-ray, the words alugase barco are painted on the concrete pier on the bay. This is Portuguese for "boat for rent".


At 43:40 on the Blu-ray, Paine is holding a Heckler and Koch USP.


Lee uses an M8 flare pistol to ignite the fuel that has been dumped on the dock.


As the dock is erupting into flames at 43:52 on the Blu-ray, a Coomotam sign is seen. Coomotam is a taxi service in the Brazilian state of Rio de Janiero.


What appears to be a variant of the Harley-Davidson logo is seen on the bulkhead in the cockpit of the floatplane at 44:18 on the Blu-ray.


When Munroe tells Garza his traitorous daughter must be killed, Garza says, "Pequeño familia." The subtitles translate it as "You don't kill your family," but it really means "I have a small family" (just his daughter); this also makes more sense in relation to Munroe's response, "Come around my house during the holidays, pal," possibly indicating Munroe has a large family.


The shotgun Gunner carries into his meeting with Munroe is a Serbu Super Shorty.


Barney's theory about the real reason Church has hired the Expendables to take out General Garza on Vilena is that the rogue CIA operative Munroe arranged the coup to take control of the drug trade there himself, cutting off what had been a source of black income for the Agency itself.


During the search for Sandra, Munroe sees in her apartment that she is an artist. He says to her father, "So your daughter paints, too." This refers to the fact that Garza himself paints as a hobby, but we don't see that until later in the film.


Tool relates a story to Barney about the time they were in Bosnia taking down some Serb bad boys. He is referring to the Eastern European country of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which has had strained (at best!) relations with its eastern neighbor Serbia for centuries.


Tool says at the time of that Bosnian mission he thought he was dead, with his head in a very black place, "Dracula black". Dracula, of course, is the classic vampiric character from Bram Stoker's 1897 novel. Tool says he was drinking a bottle of slivovitz, a type of fruit brandy popular in Eastern Europe.


When Sandra is captured and brought before Munroe, he yanks the necklace off from around her neck, breaking the chain. This is a common film trope to make the removal more dramatic instead of just pulling if off over the person's head or undoing the clasp. If someone tried this for real, it would cause the person's head and neck to be yanked around and likely cause injury to skin and muscle in the neck.


The torture technique used on Sandra is waterboarding.


What looks like a painted advertisement for Little Debbie snack cakes is seen on the exterior wall of the Expendables' brownstone at 57:44 on the Blu-ray.


At 58:36 on the Blu-ray, Gunner is holding a customized M1911A1 as he begins the car chase against Barney.


At 58:46 on the Blu-ray, a Sheraton Hotel tower in seen in the distance.


The truck Gunner drives during the chase sequence against his former boss is a 1987 Ford Bronco.


The "broken down" car at 59:27 on the Blu-ray is a 2000 Chevrolet Malibu.


The van that blocks Barney's escape at 59:38 on the Blu-ray is a Grumman-Olson Kurbmaster from Aire-Quick Parcel Delivery. Aire-Quick appears to be a fictitious company, though meant to resemble a UPS (United Parcel Service) vehicle. In this same shot, a sign for the Interstate 10 freeway can be seen in the background; the I-10 does, in fact, run through New Orleans.


As the first of Munroe's thugs fires on Barney's truck, he is using a Heckler & Koch MP5K.


The machine gun Yang uses against Munroe's men during the car chase is a Brügger & Thomet MP-9.


The vehicles used by Munroe's thugs in the car chase are a 1998 Dodge Durango and a 2000 Nissan Xterra.


The car Barney clips with his truck at 1:00:18 on the Blu-ray is a 1997 Cadillac Catera.


The semi-truck Barney cuts off at 1:01:04 on the Blu-ray is a Peterbilt 362.


After Gunner stomps on his partner's face during the car chase, notice that the man has a boot print indented on the side of his head!

boot print


As Yang and Gunner begin their brawl inside the old factory, Gunner notes Yang's smaller stature and shoe size and yells, "Bring it, Happy Feet!" This is a reference to the 2006 CG-animated children's film Happy Feet, about a dancing penguin.


Notice at 1:03:55 on the Blu-ray that Yang gets a quick glimpse of a sign in the factory warning "Caution--Low Clearance", setting up the moments when the gargantuan Gunner bangs his head on support beams a couple times while fighting Yang. Yang lured Gunner into the area intentionally to give himself an advantage.


The pistol Barney has stored in a hidden compartment in his truck is another Kimber Gold Combat II like he used in the rapid reload sequence at the beginning of the film.


The hangar where Barney keeps the floatplane appears to have the worn off letters of "Spiders Aircraft" on it. Spider's Aircraft Service is an actual business in San Diego, CA, but there's not one in New Orleans as far as I can find.


Notice there are a number of skull motifs seen throughout the interior of the floatplane as the movie progresses.


The loud shotgun Caesar carries during the raid on the palace is an AA-12. The Internet Movie Firearms Database points out the weapon fires up to 300 rounds per minute, not 250 as Caesar states in the film. The IMFDB also points out that he seems to fire 77 rounds without reloading, while the AA-12 can only hold a maximum of 32 rounds.


At 1:09:03 on the Blu-ray, Garza's painting has the word Virtus painted onto it many times. Virtus is Latin for "virtue" and was also the name of the Roman god of bravery and military strength. Before we see this painting, notice that we see that Garza has slashed the painting of himself that adorns his office.


The Expendables carry Noveske Rifleworks Diplomat machine guns during the raid against the palace.


Notice there are packages of cocaine stacked throughout the tunnels under the palace.


During the palace assault, the watch worn by Barney is a Panerai Luminor Regatta Rattrapante PAM332.


Besides his knives, Lee uses a Beretta 92G Elite 1A pistol in the battle against Garza's men. At 1:29:38 on the Blu-ray, Toll Road also pulls out the same model pistol in his duel against Paine, but Paine immediately smacks it out of his hand.


Munroe uses a Glock 17 to kill General Garza and to threaten Sandra.


The Expendables use M67 hand grenades during the assault on the palace. These type of fragmentation grenades were made for use by the U.S. military.


At 1:27:53 on the Blu-ray, Yang uses a SIG-Sauer P228 pistol.


The helicopter Munroe's men attempt to escape in is a Bell UH-1B Iroquois.


At 1:36:01 on the Blu-ray, notice that the Harley-Davidson logo is no longer on the cockpit bulkhead of the floatplane! A new image is seen in its place, but I can't make out what it is; it looks like it says "Race to" something...with a couple of planes flying over a territory map.


The song playing at Tool's at the end of the film is "Born on the Bayou" by Creedence Clearwater Revival (1968).


A Comet slot machine is seen at Tool's at 1:36:55 on the Blu-ray.


During the closing scene of the film at Tool's, Toll Road is wearing a bowling shirt with the name Milt on it.


The song that plays over the closing credits is "The Boys Are Back in Town" by Thin Lizzy (1976).

Memorable Dialog

a greedy pirate.wav
the only thing faster.wav
the life just got to him.wav
don't you ever sleep?.wav
suckin' each others dicks.wav
only an idiot would do this job.wav
he wants to be president.wav
that's bullshit.wav
it allows people to be the real asswipes nature intended them to be.wav
you're welcome.wav
that was a statement.wav
next time I'll deflate all your balls.wav
we don't stand for shit.wav
the human parts.wav
after taking all them lives.wav
I might've saved what was left of my soul.wav
because you're smaller.wav
got my ass kicked.wav

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