top of page

What inspired 'This Bloody Country'?

I originally posted this on my Twitter feed but thought it would be interesting to port it on to this blog, correct the post order, and expand on it a little and make it one of those posts that can quite easily take you down a rabbit hole... Sorry.

So #ThisBloodyCountry has been out for 4 days & it's time to reveal a little about the fictional country at the heart of the story...

#ValVerde featured in the Arnold Schwarzenegger film, 'Commando', which was released in 1985. It was written by Steven E. de Souza. Schwarzenegger plays John Matrix who is sent to kill President Velázquez by exiled General Arius but turns on his duplicitous employers, with typical subtlety and secrecy.

When slighted in any small way, my friends and I would quote Matrix' epic line; 'Hey, Sully, I like you. That's why I'm going to kill you last.' Or the now extremely dated line said to his on-screen daughter, normally with zero prompting; 'Boy George? More like Girl George!' You can see where 'The Simpsons' got their Rainier Wolfcastle / McBain character from... Which led to further top drawer banter at University, normally said when putting on sunglasses ('Ze goggles! Zey do nussink!') or shoes ('On clozer inspection, zese are loafers...')*.

De Souza subsequently worked with Schwarzenegger on 'The Running Man', which was based on a Stephen King novel. Whilst it didn't feature Val Verde, it is a stone-cold classic.

Producer Joel Silver and star Schwarzenegger were reunited to make another under-rated action epic; 'Predator' (1987) - which I erroneously stated was produced by De Souza. The action takes place in #ValVerde, although the canon deviates from that. Arnie's 'Dutch' and his team try to rescue the crew of a crashed Guatemalan helicopter but encounter a lethal alien hunter.

Why is it under-rated when it spawned a wealth of sequels and spin-offs and crossovers and yielded over $98m at the box office? Because it has a subtle and clever anti-war narrative. Arnie, Carl Weathers, Jesse Ventura, Bill Duke, Richard Chaves, Sonny Landham, and Shane Black might have the all-conquering power of the American military behind them but even they fail in their mission, are gruesomely killed, and out-witted by a single foe who knows the terrain and necessary tactics better than them. If that's not a commentary on the ineffectiveness of the modern armed forces and an allegory for the Vietnam War, I don't know what is.

Plus you get the bonus of some insanely quotable lines. I'll give you the top 4;

1. Poncho: You're hit, man. You're bleedin'.

Blain: I ain't got time to bleed.

2. Dutch: Get to the chopper!

3. [After Dutch has nailed a guy to the wall with his knife]

Dutch: Stick around.

4. Dutch: Dillon! You son of a bitch!

[They arm wrestle in mid-air during a handshake, Dillon is apparently losing the contest]

Dutch: What's the matter? The CIA got you pushing too many pencils?

De Souza subsequently wrote #DieHard 2 starring Bruce Willis, which was released in 1990. John McClane returns from lobbing Hans Gruber off of the Nakatomi Plaza to become embroiled in a plot to free Fascist President-in-Exile General Ramon Esperanza and return him to power in Val Verde.

Of course, McClane is successful with Esperanza and his hired goons detonated in one of the most improbable mid-air explosions ever committed to camera - but it is a fantastic film in almost every other way.

There is now a wealth of online articles which observe the connections between the films, which starts with Val Verde, and then stretch to ever more tenuous connections.

"It's something like Guyana, a country which encompasses lush Caribbean resorts popular with tourists, an unexplored mysterious rainforest, and a mix of Anglo, Spanish, African, Creole and indigenous cultures," Steven E. de Souza is quoted as saying. "This is a country of the imagination I've used in several films and TV programs, which I thought was my little inside joke."

I chose to use it as the home of the secretive Yarina and the Cualquieras and the Benemeritos because it's somewhere that could be anywhere - within Central or Southern America, at least. In modern #Britain someone from anywhere can end up being accused of not being from here - or even being deported.

I could quite easily have created or chosen another fictional Caribbean island or African nation, perhaps from the work of Hergé's Tintin, which I have always loved. However, that would have made the story sadly too close to the truth - at the time of writing, I was shocked by the way the British Government and Theresa May's Home Office treated the immigrants from and children of the Windrush Generation, who helped rebuild post-war Britain, despite facing constant racism and prejudice. By using a predominantly black country, this could have been seen to be specifically targeted to one precise group of people when, as should be clear from the variety of tribal and ethnic icons on the front cover, the message can be applied to anyone who has been considered an outsider.

By using Val Verde, this also allowed me to pay tribute to the people behind some of my favourite action films too.

* I will pay good money to see anyone re-enact the following scene from 'McBain' with a copy of 'This Bloody Country'; Police Chief: And you can get rid of that hand cannon and pick a standard issue. In this station we go by the book. [Holds up big brown book]

McBain: [Blows the book into pieces with his huge gun] Bye book!


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page