Retired Special Forces operative John Matrix is informed by Major General Franklin Kirby that all the other members of his unit have been killed by unknown mercenaries. Despite being given protection, the mercenaries attack Matrix's secluded mountain home and kill the guards, kidnapping his daughter Jenny in the process. Matrix gives chase, he is also captured when he gets into a fight with a couple of the thugs, and is shot by Bennett , who was believed to have been assassinated also, with a tranquilizer gun, knocking him unconscious.
Bennett explains that Matrix is needed to carry out a political assasionation for Arius (who calls himself "El Presidente") and his army of former U.S. soldiers and mercenaries. Arius is a warlord and dictator who was previously overthrown by Matrix. He now wishes to lead a military coup in his home country, Val Verda, and reasons that Matrix's familiarity with the country's new leader will aid in an assassination attempt. As Arius has Jenny, Matrix reluctantly accepts the demand.
After boarding an airplane to take him to Val Verde, Matrix instead kills his guard and jumps into a swamp just as the plane is taking off from the runway, then sets his watch timer for the approximate time of 10 hours of the flight. Subsequently, he 'kidnaps' an off-duty flight attendantcalled Cindy, and pulls the seat out of her car, which would allow him to not be seen. Eventually, Matrix manages to enlist her help, and follows Sully to a shopping mall, where he is making a deal. Matrix asks her to talk to Sully again as a ruse (earlier, she had told him to go away after he unsuccessfully tries to get together with her). Instead, she alerts the guards to Matrix, and a huge fight breaks out between Matrix and the security guards, which Sully witnesses, and tries to escape and make contact with Bennett. Matrix gives chase through the mall, even jumping on top of his elevator, and even rips out the phone booth with Sully still inside. Sully reaches the garage with Matrix in hot pursuit. Now with Cindy's complete co-operation, Matrix chases after Sully in his yellow Porsche 911, and causes him to put the car on its side. Grabbing Sully and dangling him by his ankle over a cliff, Matrix learns that he was meant to have met Cooke at the Sunspot motel, and then drops him over side after saying that he lied earlier when he said he'd kill him last.
Matrix and Cindy go to the motel and wait for Cooke, which breaks out into another fight, and ends up with Cooke being impaled on a broken spike. Searching Cooke's car outside leads them to a warehouse where Matrix learns where Arius' mansion is located (and where Jenny is presumably being held). He then breaks into a surplus store and steals a one-man arsenal of both small arms and heavy weapons, whereupon, he is arrested. Afterwards, Cindy helps him escape from the Police by firing a rocket at the van he is being held in and, after commandeering a seaplane from a nearby marina run by Arius, Matrix and Cindy land the plane off the coast of the island where Arius is located. Matrix instructs Cindy to contact General Kirby and then proceeds to Arius' villa, fighting and killing Arius' private army on the way. He subsequently confronts and kills Arius in a gunfight.
Matrix eventually finds Jenny in the basement after she manages to prise away boards that were nailed to the door frame of her room with a door handle, allowing her to escape, but he is shot in the arm by Bennett. Matrix then taunts Bennett into facing him in combat using a knife, an invitation Bennett cannot resist. After a fierce struggle, Matrix kills Bennett by impaling him with a large metal tube to a steam release. Kirby arrives with a military detachment and asks Matrix to rejoin the special forces unit. Matrix, however, unceremoniously declines. He, Cindy, and his daughter fly back home