Though the war in Iraq was the impetus for getting this documentary made, "Shadow Company" casts a wider if somewhat haphazard net, examining a troubling phenomenon that has been around for centuries.
That would be the mercenary, the soldier who fights for money above all else and operates outside any system of laws, an individual who in today's world calls himself a consultant or a private military contractor. According to co-directors Nick Bicanic and Jason Bourque, these men now operate in 50 countries to the tune of $100 billion.
As first noted in Robert Greenwald's "Iraq for Sale," it is in Iraq that the private military is put to the most use. In fact, "Shadow Company" claims there are more of these men on the ground than all non-U.S. coalition forces.
Though it offers interesting stories, "Shadow Company" does feel a little scattered. Its sources are a grab bag of authors, academics, retired military folks and current fighters, and there's no telling how reliable or authoritative these informants are. And the film's device of having one former operative read from his own e-mails from Iraq sounds fake when it should feel real. Maybe that's one case when hiring a professional wouldn't have been a bad idea.
"Shadow Company." No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 26 minutes. At the Laemmle Grande, 345 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, (213) 617-0268.