Hot War opens in Belfast, Ireland in 1998. Evil, blonde terrorist Alien (Terence Yin) breaks into a subliminal lab and whimsically kills a female scientist. I'll blame it on Alien's hair: a man willing to dye his hair that unnatural shade of blonde is capable of almost anything.
Back in Chicago, the Cantonese-speaking branch of the C.I.A. is working on a V.R. Project. The team is headed by subliminal expert Blue Szeto (Kelly Chen), accompanied by her two best childhood friends Tango One (Ekin Cheng) and C.S. Koo (Jordan Chan). C.S. is excited about his upcoming Miami wedding to his fiancee, Kate.
At the wedding ceremony, Alien and his sexy cohort J (Vanessa Yeung) arrive to kidnap Blue. Alien spies Kate, questions her about C.S., and kills her, apparently just to piss off C.S.
Back at C.I.A. Headquarters, Tango and C.S. butt heads with Captain Toddman, the man in charge of the subliminal investigation. Toddman seems reluctant to save Blue from Alien, so Tango & C.S. decide to go after her themselves. But first, they need to become virtually unstoppable fighting machines, courtesy of Blue's V.R. Project ("We are V.R.!")
Unfortunately, V.R. technology in 1998 left a little something to be desired. We're shown a V.R. Training montage that would make even the crappiest computer graphics lab wince in embarrassment. You'll have to take it on faith that Tango and C.S. are buffed killing machines at the end of one week.
In Hong Kong, Alien is having fun trying to break Blue ("A pretty liar is still a liar"). His ultimate goal is a complete video take-over of the World Cup Series, being broadcast throughout Asia - the perfect place to launch his subliminal messages.
Tango and C.S. break into the Missouri building and rescue Blue, but not before Alien's destroyed most of the research data and escaped. Back at the hotel, Blue admits her true feelings for Tango. C.S. thoughtfully leaves the two of them alone.
C.S. tracks down a subliminal signal sent from Alien as a trap. Alien taunts C.S. about the death of his bride ("Revenge is stupid"), then sics the lovely J on C.S. C.S. efficiently takes out Alien's henchmen, and then brutally kills J in a berserker frenzy, surprising even himself.
Tango and Blue receive a phone call from the C.I.A. in Chicago: there's a glitch in the V.R. program causing a fifth of the test subjects to become violence-prone. Both C.S. and Tango are called back to Chicago to undergo more testing.
At the Hong Kong airport, Captain Toddman handcuffs Tango to a bench, declaring him a dangerous criminal. C.S. tries to escape, and beats up several C.I.A. guards in the process. Blue runs to C.S., and he accidentally shoots and kills her, much to his utter despair.
For those keeping score at home, the count now stands at two women killed by Alien, two women killed by C.S. One more for either of them, and I'll stop watching the movie for good.
C.S. escapes from the airport, and pays a visit to his childhood orphanage. He puts flowers on the ground underneath a chalk drawing of Blue, Tango & C.S. as kids, then draws angel's wings on Blue and a large "X" through his own picture.
Back in the U.S., Tango passes the V.R. tests. Distraught over the death of Blue, Tango insists on being brainwashed to forget his past. And who said that the C.I.A. doesn't have a sense of humor? They brainwash Tango, dub him "Paul Wong", and make him a C.I.A. Eraser. First mission: return to Hong Kong and kill C.S.
Back in Hong Kong, C.S. is trying to figure out Alien's plan, in between fits of berserker insanity. He runs into Tango (now Paul), who doesn't remember him and tries to kill him. C.S. leaves a videotape of his wedding ceremony, pre-Alien invasion, to jar Tango's memory, and then heads off to Malaysia to kill Alien.
Alien, meanwhile, is busy setting up rioting subliminals to be broadcast over the five-week period of the World Cup Soccer finals. Since the rioting will only take place in Southeast Asia, the C.I.A. has pulled out of the operation. The U.S. is rather selfish that way.
C.S. finds Alien and attacks him. It's either a credit to Alien or a nasty blow against the V.R. program to realize that Alien is holding his own against the V.R.-enhanced C.S. Soon enough, Tango joins C.S. in the fight, and even the two of them can't take down Alien, a lasting testament to the powers of peroxide.
C.S. chases Alien to the roof, where they both don skydiving parachutes and gigantic fans. In what ought to have been a tense chase scene, Alien and C.S. putter along after each in the sky, looking somewhat embarrassed. At least Tango had the sense to follow them on the ground on a motorcycle.
Eventually, C.S. and Alien plunge into a swimming pool, then back onto a rooftop for the final battle. And still, C.S. is having a hell of a time trying to kill Alien. He eventually manages, with Tango's help, to wrap a chain around Alien's neck and throw him off a tall building, effectively strangling him.
Unfortunately, Alien pulled C.S. off the building in his dying plunge. Tango catches C.S., but C.S. loosens his grip. He tells Tango that he killed his best friend and he misses Kate, and plunges purposefully to his death below. Tango looks mildly perturbed.
Back in the U.S., near the Mexican border, Tango (now Paul Wong) is having a pensive, Linda Hamilton-Terminator moment. He tells us in a voice-over that if he had to do it again, he'd try to save C.S. Credits roll.