Take Me to Church: The Editing of the ‘Kingsman’ Fight Scene

Hiding cuts in a hurricane of violence.

Hiding cuts in a hurricane of violence.

We’ve talked before about the narrative power of editing specifically when it comes to action scenes. In scenes like the Max/Furiosa fight in Fury Road or the elevator scene in Drive, editing is what establishes pace and coherency, it is what helps makes sense of the melee of punches, kicks, grunts and stomps, and it frames the freneticism into something we can track. The number, style and duration of cuts in an action scene all lend themselves to the overall effectiveness of said scenes, as does the artifice with which everything is stitched together: the more seamless, the more effective. There’s plenty of artificiality in action scenes, after all, from the split-hair choreography to the endurance and resilience of the participants, so the more actual an editor can depict the action by removing from view the strings being pulled, the better.

Like those scenes mentioned above, the “church scene” from Matthew Vaughn’s Kingsman: The Secret Service, shot by George Richmond and edited by Eddie Hamilton and Jon Harris, is one of the finest examples in contemporary cinema of a high-octane action scene that’s had its chaos edited into a coherent ballet of violence. In the following video from Harrison Edgecombe, the cuts from this scene have been counted and studied to reveal how Hamilton and Harris managed to make them seem seamless through zooming, camera rotation, shutter speed, and the physical blocking of the actors. As Edgecombe notes, this isn’t meant to “debunk” the act of seamless editing, rather to draw attention to the inherent brilliance of such tactics, and to highlight their efficacy. Edgecombe also notes that due to the mastery of the scene, he might have missed a cut or two. His tally is 23, see if you can find another couple cuts hidden among the mayhem.

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