One of the Greatest Action Sequences of Modern Cinema: The Church Massacre in ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’

While there have been many great action sequences over the past decade of movies, the church scene from Kingsman stands above the rest. It is one of the bloodiest, brutalist, best choreographed, and most outrageous action sequences in recent cinema.

Be aware that major spoilers are ahead!

Who knew that a then 53-year old Colin Firth could kick so much ass? Kingsman agent Harry Hart, played by Firth, is attending a sermon at a hate church in Kentucky (a thinly veiled parody of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church) in order to track down the movie’s antagonist, Richmond Valentine, played by a lispy Samuel L. Jackson. Just as Hart is leaving the congregation, Valentine activates the secret function of the free SIM cards he has been giving away that turns everyone nearby into violent, rage-filled killers. Highly-trained agent Hart is affected by these SIM cards as well and what follows is perhaps the most chaotic and brutal fight scene ever to grace the screen.

If you need a refresher you can watch the scene again here.

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Hart, armed with a pistol, several spy gadgets, and his fists, fights his way through a church full of brawling Southerners with the guitar solo from ‘Free Bird’ by Lynyrd Skynyrd as the accompanying soundtrack. During the three-minute scene Firth’s character kills upwards of 4o people in various bloody ways until he is the last left standing.

The most striking thing about the sequence for me, after getting past the sheer awesomeness of it all, is the intricate choreography and intense rehearsal that must’ve gone in to creating it. Colin Firth, prior to even having read the entire script was approached by Matthew Vaughn, the director, and told that he would really have to train and prepare himself physically to be able to pull this sequence off. It would appear that Firth did exactly that and was able to really bring this scene to life.

The sequence appears to be an uncut continuous shot of Hart killing people, but in fact there are several cleverly disguised cuts. Matthew Vaughn hid cuts as extras passed in front of the camera making it appear as one continuous sequence. Continuity, then, must have been a major issue when filming the church scenes. As can be seen in the special features of Kingsman, Vaughn had to yell “freeze!” every time there was a cut in order to ensure that all the extras were in the same place and fighting the same people from scene to scene.

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As the sequence progresses Hart becomes more disheveled and bloody and the fighting becomes even more brutal. Knives, sharp wooden posts, an axe, a mini flamethrower gadget, and a grenade take the place of Hart’s gun when he runs out of ammunition, leading to even more violent deaths of the church-goers.

What’s even more remarkable is the fact that when director originally pieced together the church massacre it clocked in at a whopping seven minutes! Seven whole minutes of Colin Firth fighting his way through a raging horde of racist and homophobic parishioners with no cutaways. When shown this original seven-minute version, Mark Miller, writer of the comic book upon which the movie is based, expressed concern that it was a little too intense and violent for the average movie-goer to handle. Vaughn then trimmed the sequence to three minutes and added in several cutaways to Valentine and Eggsy to give viewers a slight rest from the unrelenting action. While I think Vaughn made the right choice in trimming the sequence down a bit, I’m still itching to see what he originally had in mind. Hopefully the seven-minute version turns up at some point in the future.

kingsman-church-aftermath

Now that a second Kingsman movie has been confirmed (Kingsman 2: The Golden Circle) we are ensured more over-the-top action and exciting spy moments, including the return of Firth’s character Harry Hart, despite his ‘death’ in the first instalment. While I’m very excited for the new Kingsman I can’t see them being able to top the incredible church massacre.

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Author: Ryan Northrup

I'm recent graduate of McMaster University's history program in Ontario, Canada and I have a passion for a good story.

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