Is the hero going to clear the chasm? Will evil triumph over good? Do I have enough popcorn? Great action sequences glue us to our seats. Containing many memorable action scenes, Kingsman: The Secret Service functions as a James Bond parody, putting spin on classic action sequences that easily could have been trite.
Starring famous bald man Samuel Jackson, and British guy Colin Firth, Kingsman offers up a masterclass on how to shoot action scenes that pop.
How to Shoot Action Comedy Movies Like Kingsman
1. Make your hero the underdog
Not only does Kingsman have us gripping our seats in suspense, they also have us laughing too. The key to crafting dynamic fight scenes is same as developing comedy fight scenes: make your hero the underdog.
If the audience doesn’t believe your hero will make it, the stakes are automatically higher.
In Kingsman, protagonist Eggsy is established as a wildcard, whose lack of discipline causes him to lose fights often. Before transforming into a full-fledged secret agent, Eggsy comes out of action sequences on top through on-the-fly surprises.
In the best action comedies, these surprise maneuvers open ample opportunities for out-of-the-box jokes.
2. Push your violence over the top
The Kingsmen don’t punch bad guys. They shatter their goddamn bones.
By heightening your violence to absurd levels, it not only makes your fight scene grittier but also hilarious.
It seems obvious: action sequences are going to have violence. Playing without how much you chose to show can make for a playful experience.
Consider the best fight scene in the entire film: when Colin Firth murders a church full of people. Wow, I feel weird writing that.
You can learn how to shoot action scenes just by watching this fight.
While visually stunning, what makes this fight memorable and hilarious is how far it takes the violence.
Colin Firth doesn’t merely kill innocent people, he slaughters them. What could easily be a thirty second sequence to show a character flip is a three minute and thirty-six second bloodbath, where pastor moms are impaled on planks of wood and randos have their necks snapped.
Cinematic Techniques: Shooting Action Sequences
In Kingsman, Matthew Vaughn constantly shifts between extreme close ups, slow-mo, tracking shots, and handhelds within a ten-second span. Cutting rapidly between shots creates a visual violence amping up your fight scenes. If you’re working on a tight budget, check out these 3 low-budget editing tips for action sequences.
3. Sling one-liners
“Is he dead?”
“That tends to happen when you shoot someone in the head.”
Whether in the middle of an intense action sequence or in a dialogue-heavy scene, Vaughn freckles his movie with tons of one-liners. While some are more campy than others, they break up action and reduce the tension so you hit the audience with an unexpected punch.
While primarily a staple of the best action comedy movies, one-liners or any humor for that matter provides a reprieve for your audience in the middle of intense action. Learning how to shoot action scenes entails toying with your audience’s heartstrings by amping them up, breaking them down, and constantly defying their expectations.
Just be careful with them.
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4. Subvert stereotypes
How many car chases have you seen? How many one-on-one fist fights? How many giant robot destruction rallies?
When working within the action genre, your audience is going to have several preconceived notions as soon as they buy their 15 dollar ticket. Through his film, Vaughn gives us what we expect with heavy twists.
In the finale of the film, Vaughn inserts a classic one-on-fight between Eggsy and the villainous knife-legged assistant of Sam Jackson. To break up what could be considered stereotypical, Vaughn sets this fight in the middle of a dance floor with party music.
Vaughn does this in dialogue-heavy scenes as well. In the middle of verbal game of cat and mouse, Samuel Jackson wheels out an ominous silver tray to our hero. As dramatic music swells, he lifts the lid revealing…Big Macs.
Comedy is based on defying expectations. In the best action comedies, stereotypes are subverted with jokes. Discovering how to shoot an action scene is learning to think five steps ahead of your audience and showing us something we’ve seen, but entirely different.
Filmmaking Tips: How to Shoot Action Scenes
Like any great joke, set-up is as just as important your punchlines. Build room in your script on your storyboards so we can see your heroes and villains prepare to deliver blows. This will give your viewers something to latch onto while raising the suspense.
5. Hire Colin Firth
Part of what makes Kingsman such a great comedy is Colin Firth. Just look at him.
How to make an action film starts with hiring Colin Firth
Those eyes. That accent…
Colin Firth represents the best of both worlds. He’s done drama. He’s done comedy. He’s won a Oscar for bloody hell’s sake.
When shooting action sequences, find actors who can navigate many genres at once. Mixing drama, comedy, or any other type of genre, can break up what would be a routine action scene.
One could argue that Colin Firth’s ability to jump between genres makes Kingsman so fresh.
To be clear, I’m not saying you need to hire Colin Firth to make the best action comedy movies. I’m saying you must.
Kingsman: The Secret Service prides itself on its ability to captivate with its action sequences while not taking itself too seriously. How to shoot action scenes takes painstaking research of every action scene that has come before yours and navigating genre memory.
Matthew Vaughn doesn’t settle for one genre, constantly interjecting moments of levity, grit, and Colin Firth to create memorable action sequences.
Okay, take a look at this man again.
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