Three years after the previous film, while trying to lead a normal life with girlfriend Sarah Ross, Frank Moses is approached by Marvin Boggs, who claims people are still after them, but Frank dismisses him. After appealing a second time, Marvin drives off, and his car explodes. Although Frank does not believe Marvin is dead, Sarah convinces him to go to Marvin's funeral where he delivers a teary-eyed eulogy.
After the funeral, a group of government agents approach Frank and take him to be interrogated at a Yankee White Facility. During the interrogation, Jack Horton appears with an armed SWAT team, kills most of the facility's personnel, and tells Frank that he will torture Sarah until he gets information out of Frank. Frank escapes from the room, evades Horton's assassins, and with the sudden timely help of Marvin, who turns out to be alive, goes on the run with Sarah.
In a diner, Marvin explains that he and Frank are being hunted because they were listed as participants in a clandestine operation codenamed Nightshade, conducted during the Cold War to smuggle a nuclear weapon into Russia piece by piece. Horton has convinced world agencies that Frank and his crew are terrorists and must be stopped. Victoria calls, telling Frank she has been contracted by MI6 to kill the three of them. Meanwhile, top contract killer Han Cho-Bai, whom Horton knows is seeking revenge on Frank, is also hired.
Frank, Marvin, and Sarah steal Han's plane and fly to Paris to find a man nicknamed "The Frog", with the Americans and Han in pursuit. As they arrive in Paris, they are stopped by Katja, a Russian secret agent with whom Frank had a relationship earlier in his career. Katja is also in search of Nightshade, and joins them to find The Frog. When he sees them, The Frog flees. Frank and Katja catch him and bring him back to his house, where Sarah seduces him, both to help them and to prove she is a better girlfriend than Katja.
The Frog gives them the key to his security box, which Katja apparently takes from Frank after drugging him; but Marvin, anticipating this, had handed a similar-looking key to Frank before his meeting with her. Marvin, Frank, and Sarah later find documents in The Frog's security box which point to Dr. Edward Bailey, a brilliant physicist, as the creator of the Operation Nightshade bomb.
They find that Bailey is alive, held thirty-two years in a maximum security asylum for the criminally insane in London. Victoria (alerted by Marvin) unexpectedly confronts the trio, but helps to fake their deaths and then gain access to the asylum, in which Victoria feigns insanity, while Frank and Sarah pose as the facility staff, having tied up and gagged the real staff with duct tape. Frank and Victoria meet Bailey, who is hyperactive and cannot rationally respond to their questions thanks to mind-fogging drugs the asylum had been giving him, so they take him to one of Marvin's safehouses. After the drugs begin to wear off, Bailey remembers the bomb is still in Moscow.
They travel to Moscow, and Bailey concludes he hid the bomb in the Kremlin. They break into the Kremlin, and Bailey locates the suitcase-sized bomb, which is powered by red mercury, which has no radioactive signature and causes no fallout. As they are about to leave, Katja stops them. Frank persuades her to switch to their side. After they escape and are celebrating, Victoria, who has escaped MI6 imprisonment for failing to kill him, calls Frank from London and tells him that Bailey was locked up because he had wanted to detonate the bomb, not sell it.
Bailey quickly holds Frank at gunpoint and confirms Victoria's message, revealing that he made a deal with Horton and the Americans to give them the red mercury. He shoots Katja, making it look as if Frank killed her, and leaves with the bomb case. Horton reneges on his deal with Bailey, intending to interrogate him until all his secrets have been tortured out of him, but Bailey escapes during air transit using a nerve gas he created, administering the antidote to both himself and Horton. Bailey then moves to the Iranian embassy in London. Before Frank can follow him, Han attacks. Reaching a standoff, Frank urges Han to join sides with him and stop the bomb. Han finally relents, and the five enact a plan to recapture Bailey and the bomb.
Sarah first seduces the Iranian ambassador, then takes him hostage. Marvin poses as a person seeking to defect to Iran, causes a diversion with the embassy plumbing, and the disguised team comes to "fix" it. They discover in the ambassador's safe plans disclosing the location of the bomb, but find that Bailey has already triggered the bomb's countdown timer and killed Horton (after disclosing he also remembered how his family had been killed by people like Horton). When they are discovered by embassy guards, Bailey seizes Sarah and flees to the airport to escape the imminent explosion.
Frank, Marvin, Victoria, and Han, taking the active bomb case with them, give chase, but Marvin, in his attempts to disarm the bomb by cutting wires, causes the timer to speed up and count down even faster. Frank, holding the bomb case, boards the plane and confronts Bailey who releases Sarah and forcefully insists he take the bomb off the plane with her. They rejoin Marvin, Victoria, and Han and wait for death as Han's plane takes off. As it disappears high in the sky it explodes in an immense fireball. Frank reveals that he had covertly placed the bomb from the case into a compartment near the plane's exit and confronted Bailey with only a closed empty case. Han angrily tells Frank that Frank owes him "$30 million for the plane and $20 million for not killing you (Frank)".
The closing scene shows Sarah enjoying herself on a mission in Caracas with Frank and Marvin.Bruce Willis as Francis "Frank" Moses
John Malkovich as Marvin Boggs
Helen Mirren as Victoria Winslow
Mary-Louise Parker as Sarah Ross
Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Edward Bailey
Catherine Zeta-Jones as Katja Petrokovich
Byung-hun Lee as Han Cho Bai
Brian Cox as Ivan Simanov
David Thewlis as The Frog
Neal McDonough as Jack Horton
Garrick Hagon as Davis
Tim Pigott-Smith as Director Philips
Philip Arditti as Arman
Jong Kun Lee as Han's father
Mitchell Mullen as Wade
Martin Sims as Blackwell
Tristan D. Lalla as Vance
Nathalie Buscombe as Serena
Emma Heming Willis as Kelly
Steven Berkoff as Cobb
Andrew Byron as Russian Lead Officer
Titus Welliver as Senior Director of Military Intelligence (uncredited)
In January 2011, Summit Entertainment rehired writers Jon and Erich Hoeber to write a second installment of Red due to the film's financial success, which even surpassed producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura's expectations. Helen Mirren stated in March 2011 that she was ready for Red 2. In October 2011, Summit announced that Red 2 would be released on August 2, 2013 and the film would "reunite the team of retired CIA operatives with some new friends as they use their 'old-school style' to take on new enemies in Europe." In February 2012, Dean Parisot, best known for directing Galaxy Quest and Fun With Dick and Jane, entered final negotiations to direct the sequel.
In May 2012, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Lee Byung-hun signed on to join the cast of Red 2. Also in May, it was reported that Anthony Hopkins was up to appear in the film as the villain, Edward Bailey, if a scheduling conflict could be worked out with Thor: The Dark World. In July 2012, Neal McDonough entered negotiations to join the cast of Red 2.
In August 2012, it was announced that Red 2 would film in Montreal beginning in September. The city was selected because of a 25 percent tax credit offered by the province of Quebec and because of its resemblance to European cities (the film's settings include London, Paris and Moscow). It was also reported that following the Montreal shoot, the production would film in London even though Montreal doubled for London in some scenes. In September 2012, David Thewlis joined the cast as a character called The Frog, an information dealer who got his name by poisoning the water supply at the Kremlin using a poisonous Amazonian frog. Principal photography began in late September in Montreal. Production moved to Paris in mid-October then to London by the end of the month. In March 2013, Summit moved the film's release date from August 2, 2013 to July 19, 2013.
The childhood photo of Han Cho-bai (Lee Byung-hun) and his father that appears in the film are actually photos of Lee with his late father, who died in 2000. Lee's father was a fan of Hollywood films and dreamed of being an actor himself. When Lee shared this story with Dean Parisot, the director, he was so touched that he decided to include Lee's father at the end credits as one of the main cast, even though the photos appear only briefly in the film.
Red 2 opened on July 19, 2013, in North America. In its opening weekend, the film grossed $18.5 million and finished in fifth place, which was lower than the $21.8 million its predecessor earned in October 2010. According to exit polling, 67% of the audience was over 35 and 52% was male. Red 2 grossed $53.3 million in North America and $94.8 million overseas for a total of $148.1 million worldwide.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a rating of 42% based on 137 reviews, with an average rating of 5.4/10. The site's consensus reads, "While it's still hard to argue with its impeccable cast or the fun they often seem to be having, Red 2 replaces much of the goofy fun of its predecessor with empty, over-the-top bombast." Metacritic, which uses a weighted mean, assigned a score of 47 out of 100, based on 38 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Justin Chang of Variety called Red 2, "An obligatory sequel that can't quite recapture the sly, laid-back pleasures of its cheerfully ridiculous predecessor." Todd Gilchrist of The Wrap said, "...in a lackadaisical sequel no one asked for except perhaps his creditors, Bruce Willis seems unmotivated to smile at all, much less offer a series of emotions that constitute a believable or compelling performance." Justin Lowe of The Hollywood Reporter said, "Not that it isn’t entertaining, but the film's premise is certainly well past its 'use by' date, resulting in another passably palatable sequel distinguished by a lack of narrative and stylistic coherence that could potentially underpin a really viable franchise." Betsy Sharkey of Los Angeles Times said, "No doubt the hope was that Dean Parisot could do to the action genre what he did to the Star Trek universe in the spot-on satire of 1999's Galaxy Quest. He has, and he hasn't. Red 2 is much more of a mixed bag than it should have been." Nicolas Rapold of The New York Times said, "Cars careen, lazily written infiltration plans are executed, and the violence is plentiful and toothless."
In May 2013, Lionsgate re-signed Jon Hoeber and Erich Hoeber to write a third installment.