The first film from celebrated cinematographer Jingle Ma
is a cross between Downtown Torpedoes, Once a
Thief and The Lawnmower Man. Ekin Cheng is Tango
One, a scientist working in Chicago for the CIA. He’s partnered
with childhood friends C.S. (Jordan Chan) and Szeto Blue
(Kelly Chan). The three grew up in an HK orphanage before
relocating to the U.S. where they work on a subliminal project
called “VR Fighters” that trains soldiers through virtual
On the other side of the globe,
evil terrorist Alien (Terence Yin) and his sexy moll J (Vanessa
Yeung) are busy kidnapping and killing other subliminal
scientists in an unknown plan of obvious nefarious intent.
They cross paths with our three heroes at C.S.’s wedding,
which ends with the kidnapping of Blue and the death of
C.S.’s bride. Pissed, Tango and C.S. use the VR Fighter
project to transform themselves into super spies. Then they
head for HK to find Alien and give him a subliminal ass-whupping.
As you can likely tell, this is a movie
where the ludicrousness of the plot reaches epic proportions.
Never mind that these three work for the CIA - the idea
that Kelly Chan can head up a super-secret government project
is laughable, as is Ekin Cheng’s severely broken English.
Thankfully the film is saved by excellent action sequences
from Stephen Tung Wai, who also choreographed the action
in Downtown Torpedoes. The action is a saving grace
amidst a morass of awful acting, poor character, and meaningless
While the film manages to throw
a couple of unexpected curves at the viewer, the more predictable
parts anchor the film to mediocrity. One only has to look
as far as the idiotic English-speaking actors and the incredibly
awful villain Alien. Played by the handsome Terence Yin,
Alien is about as threatening as Chris O’Donnell in Batman
and Robin. The most dangerous character in the film
is probably Jordan Chan’s C.S., especially after the VR
Training takes a toll on his psyche. The darkness that follows
drives the second half of the film, but it’s hard to get
into something so nihilistic when you’re basically watching
a popcorn movie.
Sadly, Hot War can never
be given more credit only because it came out after Downtown
Torpedoes and Enter the Eagles. Those were better
movies anyway. Sure, the action in all three is comparable,
but Hot War loses points for leaning on its VR hook.
The idea of young technology mercenaries and kick-ass professional
thieves is a lot easier to swallow then subliminally enhanced
super-soldiers. And even though I did like Downtown Torpedoes,
I can only take so much of pop stars living out their Mission:
Impossible fantasies. And the names: Tango One? Szeto
Blue? Who writes this stuff? (Kozo 1999)