In the climactic moments of Expend4bles, when Lee Christmas (portrayed by Jason Statham) faces what seems like an inevitable demise, he delivers a poignant line, declaring, “Looks like I’ll be seeing you soon, Barney.” This reference to his late friend and mentor, Barney (played by Sylvester Stallone), who tragically met his end earlier in the film, sets the stage for a surprising turn of events. Contrary to expectations, Christmas does indeed reunite with Barney, but not in the afterlife.
Throughout the testosterone-fueled franchise of The Expendables, which boasts an ensemble of iconic action stars, Sylvester Stallone has remained its central figure. He not only appeared in every installment but also directed the inaugural film and co-wrote three of the four scripts. However, Stallone’s recent video from the set of Expend4bles marked his final day of filming in the series, as he expressed his readiness to pass the baton to Statham.
Given this context, the opening mission of Expend4bles takes an unexpected twist. Barney’s plane is shot down and explodes, leaving behind only his signature ring as an identifier. This tragic incident propels Christmas into a vengeance-driven mission, pitting him against Marsh (depicted by Andy Garcia), a CIA agent who is unveiled as the enigmatic antagonist, Ocelot. Just as it appears that Christmas is on the verge of defeat, an unforeseen savior emerges – Barney himself, piloting a helicopter.
Director Scott Waugh reflects on this daring narrative choice, stating, “I think the idea of killing off Barney like that is on brand. I mean, he’s the lead of the franchise, and, again, we take ourselves a little bit seriously but not entirely. They’re expendable, that’s the kind of personality.” Waugh goes on to explain his initial reaction to the script’s plot twist and its eventual resolution, highlighting the essence of the brand and the audience’s response.
“So I was thrilled that I feel like it’s more on message to what the brand is. And sometimes it’s like the saying, ‘You got to do what you got to do to get people to do what you need them to do.’ And Barney needed Christmas to handle his sh–,” Waugh concludes, “and the only way to do it was to fake his death, and sometimes that’s what it takes. When the audience claps when Barney rises back up in the helicopter, I think it affirms that the brand made the right decision.”