"Mercenary"

Creator: GD Tong
Age rating: 13 and older
In this action/war film, a group of physically challenged Iraq War veterans who were all wounded in combat must return to Baghdad in search of a cache of Saddam Hussein's hidden money.
Project collaboration: Closed
Synopsis: Fallujah, Iraq. 2004. American Marines push through the city in the biggest offense since the U.S. invasion. LT. WADE BISHOP, USMC (25) and his unit capture a former Republican Guard officer who is now fighting with the insurgents. Upon interrogation, Bishop finds a large stash of U.S. dollars on the prisoner, who says the money is part of a cache he was ordered to guard for Saddam. The dictator has emergency provisions hidden throughout the country, and this is part of a 60 million dollar fund hidden deep in the desert.

Bishop passes the information to his superiors. Then, while leading his troops in a push to clear the city, Bishop and his Marines are ambushed in a vicious firefight. They barely survive but are horribly wounded in the contact. Bishop receives a crippling wound to his leg.

Los Angeles, two years later. At the V.A. hospital in Westwood, Bishop undergoes yet another painful physical therapy session on his shattered leg. Badly wounded in the Fallujah ambush, the injury forced him out of the Marines, and he now struggles with severe physical, emotional and financial problems. Bishop has a wife and young daughter, but his post-war injury is precluding him from adequately caring for them and himself.

Now his situation is to worsen. While trying to check into the V.A., a Defense Department representative intercepts him, claiming Bishop has a serious debt to the government that must be repaid. In an audit, they discovered Bishop separated from the military early and, as a result, he must repay the signing bonus he was awarded upon his reenlistment. Bishop tries to explain that his combat injuries were the reason he left the Marines, but according to the military, he must give his bonus back and only has a short time to do so.

It seems Bishop’s problems are not unique, and many vets are suffering severe emotional and physical problems since their service. The government has been woefully insensitive to their ills, despite the blood they spilled for their country. They can’t work and their debts are mounting.

But Bishop remembers something about his service in Iraq: the cache in the desert. Checking with his contacts still in the military, he learns his report of the money went nowhere. Military bureaucrats filed it away and no action was taken. That means it's still out there. Thus, the former Marine hatches a plan. They know where this cache of cash is located, they have the skills to retrieve it and now all they need is the will to do it.

After coaxing, Bishop convinces the others in the veterans group that this is a prize worth risking their lives once again. They will return to Iraq by whatever means necessary, and find that money.

Bishop contacts ROGAN, one of his Marine comrades who now works for the BLACKWELL COMPANY, a private security firm working in Iraq. Rogan conspires to supply equipment and support in exchange for a cut of the loot. So, these disabled vets head to Iraq once again.

The wounded vets infiltrate Iraq disguised as Blackwell personnel and wait for Rogan to pick them up and supply their equipment. As Bishop and his people watch their helicopter approaching, they’re shocked to see an insurgent team fire anti-aircraft missile at it. Rogan and the chopper are blown to bits.

Bishop and his people are now stuck in Iraq with no cover from Blackwell.

But they still need that money. Bishop convinces them to press on, so they borrow and steal weapons and equipment then set out to find their treasure. What follows is an impossible quest through the Iraqi desert in search of the money. They have the coordinates and it should seemingly be just a matter of reaching the cache.

However, the task won’t be so easy. Iraq is still a warzone that’s like the American Wild West. Foreign insurgents, coalition military forces, private contractors, mercenary security firms and the local population caught in sectarian conflict are all factors making their mission more difficult that it would seem at first. There is an insurgent leader in the province –- AL-FAHANI -- who has been responsible for numerous American kidnappings and deaths.

Along the way, Bishop’s group will: be mistaken for insurgents by American forces and attacked by real Muji, have to help the local population and witness many horror of war they’d hoped to put behind them. During their journey, each wounded vet will confront the wounds and issues affecting him and her. Battle has scarred them and now they have returned to the warzone. This exposure brings out severe psychological traumas they must now confront. Some are successful, some aren’t. Some of the veterans won’t live to see the hidden cache.

They’ll also learn that not all Americans are their friends. One of Blackwell’s supervisors, PHILIPS, is Bishop’s former military comrade, and he learns the wounded vets have returned and discovers what they’re after. $60 million is a great prize and Blackwell wants the money too. They spread word that Bishop and his group are enemy insurgents, and soon the might of the American military is on the hunt for them. Moreover, Blackwell dispatches its own private army to stop Bishop and get the money first.

Overcoming incredible odds, Bishop and his team presses forward. They are captured by Al-Fahani, the insurgent leader, and successfully devise their escape from him. Traveling to the hidden cache, a hamlet in a remote area of northern Iraq, they are shocked to find Philips and his Blackwell force have beat them to the money.

The Blackwell mercs are interrogating the Iraqi villagers, demanding to know where the money is hidden. But these terrorized innocent people don't even know Saddam has hidden a cache in their midst. The wounded vets must take action to defeat Blackwell and save the villagers. In an elaborate plan, the wounded vets pull off their daring operation, but not without extreme bloodshed. Philips, his mercs and a few more of Bishop’s vets die in the enormous firefight.

In the aftermath, the remaining vets find the money. But this epic battle doesn’t escape the American military, which has reconnaissance throughout the country and sees the battle’s aftermath. As coalition forces converge on the bunker area, Bishop and the wounded vets escape with their prize in hand.

When it’s all over, Bishop and the few remaining vets will return home and carrying on. But their lives will never be normal, for they are wounded and will always remain so. They have experienced war twice over, and it was never pleasant. But these tortured souls, no longer American soldiers and Marines, will do their best to press forward. They are still fighters and warriors.

Mercenaries.

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