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赤腳小子 (1993)
The Bare-Footed Kid

Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 10/27/2007
Summary: See it for Maggie and Ti Lung

“The Bare-Footed Kid” is the story of two couples whose lives are intertwined by happenstance. The story of Miss Ho and Tuan which is one of growing respect and affection between two mature adults who have lived through a lot and who, each for their own reasons, are very reserved concerning their past, is more interesting than that of Kuan and Huang. People and especially couples who have endured and survived are almost always more engrossing than those in the first flush of young love. Some of the most memorable couples in cinema, for example Bogart and Bergman in “Casablanca”, Noiret and Huppert in “Coup de torchon”, Loren and Mastroianni in “Marriage, Italian Style”, fall into this category. Maggie Cheung and Ti Lung are artists of the screen on the level of those giants even though neither of them is really challenged by their roles but both do extraordinarily well within the confines of the script. Both of them throttle back the outsize talent and magnetism that has made them stars and create characters full of repressed energy.

Aaron Kwok as the country bumpkin Kuan and Ng Sin-Lin as the sexy schoolmarm Huang have less to bring to the movie. Kwok is further handicapped because he has a very unsympathetic role in which he has to play an apparently extremely stupid person who not only can’t write his own name but is unable to learn to do so and who also has almost unworldly kung fu skills. He is graceful but unconvincing--a bit too simplemindedly innocent and overly cute with stray tendrils of his long hair always framing his face. There is too great a contrast between his martial arts expertise and the kid from the sticks who is shocked to see shoes for sale at a streetside stand and he doesn't inhabit either role very well. While there may be great young actors who could successfully do this role as written, none come to mind. Huang has little to do other than be the beautiful object of Kuan’s affection. They are no Romeo and Juliet.

On one level The Bare-Footed Kid” is the story of a commercial struggle. Miss Ho owns the Four Seasons weaving works, a company that produces top quality yarn in colors that its competitors can't match. When she refuses to sell her company Ke Hu Pu sends thugs, first to extort her by threatening her top weaver and when that doesn’t work, tries to burn the works under cover of night. It turns out that Maggie herself is the most valuable asset that her company has--the formulae for mixing dye is known only to her. Her rival is more interested in employing her talents than in picking up the plant and equipment that an acquisition of Four Seasons would entail, much like a software giant buying a start-up company in order to get the coding secrets of its resident genius or a luxury conglomerate buying a new label in order to acquire the talent and cache of its designer.

Miss Ho is a mother figure to her workers, sitting at the head of the table during their communal meals, taking care of them when they are in trouble and making sure that they have what they need for their labors. She is as devoted as a mother would be, staying up all night to mix a batch of dye that must be used the next morning to produce product that will save the company. She knew that constant exposure to the volatile chemicals might be fatal and greets the dawn with containers full of dye but already feeling the effects of the poison seeping into her bones. The only antidote is a very unpleasant tasting soup, a meal that Tuan is happy to feed to her spoonful by spoonful. The two of them are clearly meant for each other. After she recovers she takes him on a field trip to gather the right stones and flowers to be used as ingredients in her magical dyes. When Tuan asks why she is doing this since he is just an employee who might leave at any time it is obvious that what he is saying is the opposite of his intentions.

Ti Lung gives a wonderful performance. Tuan is implacably honest, tough, kind, loyal and willing to die for what he believes. In the tradition of many martial arts heroes he is all but indestructible, armored against his foes by his innate nobility of spirit. Unarmed and after being poisoned and stabbed Tuan is more than a match for a squad of opponents with swords. Even being stuck with more arrows than St. Stephen he is credible as someone who not only can continue to fight and but also teach Kuan his father's kung fu moves.

Which is one of the major problems that Kwok as Kuan has—he simply isn’t believable as a martial artist and the wire work, stunt doubling and constructive editing used by the filmmakers couldn’t make him so. Another, as has been pointed out in several reviews here, is the score. It is so bad that it draws attention to its inadequacy and it could be improved by dumping the entire thing and replacing it with fifty or so generic orchestral cues from a production company’s library.

But enough concerning the drawbacks of the film. There are a lot of reasons to enjoy “The Bare-Footed Kid” other than the casting. It is gorgeous to look at with the gaudy parti-colored yarn produced by Four Seasons a fitting metaphor for the gorgeous hues and realistic textures provided by the art directors and set designers. Some of the simplest images are the most beautiful and effective including one of Maggie walking slowly in the rain under her translucent umbrella, the scene awash in deep pastels. There is a scene with Miss Ho waiting in her room and seeing the silhouette of Tuan appear at her door that is breathtaking. She is lit from one side, bathed in a soft light. The camera slowly pulls toward her and as her face gets larger on the screen the conflicting emotions of hope, fear, love and scorn stream across her face and eyes. It is a devastating scene but also a potential minefield of maudlin pathos that Maggie Cheung, Johnnie To and Horace Wong execute seamlessly. The final showdown between Tuan and Kuan on one side and battalions of bad guys on the other was exemplary in its brutality and viciousness—there was a lot of fake blood used on this set.

This is a difficult film to rate. It could be classed a failure due to the weak script and the casting of an inadequate actor in a role that might have been beyond a young Laurence Olivier but has enough good parts to make it worth watching.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 10/22/2007

You might think that a remake of a Chang Cheh movie (Disciples of Shaolin) helmed by Johnnie To, starring Ti Lung, and action directed by Lau Kar-Leung would be an all-time classic. And if you're to judge The Bare-Footed Kid by many of the reviews out there, you'd be right in thinking that. Unfortunately, The Bare-Footed Kid has a big stumbling block in the form of Mr. Aaron Kwok that this particular reviewer could not get around.

The movie has Kwok as a young man named Kuan, who has come to the big city from his village in order to pick up his deceased father's effects. They're being held at pop's old place of employment, a weaving company owned by the lovely widow Miss Ho (Maggie Cheung) and supervised by the stern Tuan (Ti Lung). Miss Ho takes pity on the impoverished Kuan and offers him a job. Kuan fits right in, and even begins courting a teacher (Wu Chien-Lin). But things start to go awry when the local magistrate (Paul Chun Pui) plots to take the company's secret dye-making techniques by any means necessary.

The plot isn't anything mind-blowing, but there are a few nice twists to keep the viewer interested, and Johnnie To moves matters along at a nice clip. Most of the acting is solid; Maggie Cheung and Ti Lung, in particular, turn in very good performances. And the action (though there's not a whole lot of it until the last part of the movie) is, as you might expect from the mind of Lau Kar-Leung, is staged well, with inventive use of different weapons.

Even with all of that going for The Bare-Footed Kid, Aaron Kwok's performance is so terrible that it threatens to de-rail the whole picture at many times during the proceedings. Long-time readers of this site will know that I am not a big fan of Kwok's work -- he often comes off with the personality and charisma of a gargoyle that just smoked a fatty -- but I will grant that he can do good work, such as with After This Our Exile.

Unfortunately, this is not one of those times. Kwok's attempts at acting here make The Bare-Footed Kid come off at times like a bad farce, rather than the touching and exciting martial arts picture it sets out to be. But if you can forgive the shortcomings in that department, The Bare-Footed Kid still has a lot to offer potential viewers, and thus still warrants a mild recommendation.

[review from]

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 02/20/2007
Summary: 7/10 - pretty good

An illiterate country boy with some serious kung fu skills travels to a small town cloth-dyers when his father dies, looking for his father's friend. The local ruffians want to take over the dyers, and the naive youth learns that fighting can't solve all your problems (even when you're really good at it).

This Johnnie To directed film feels like a remake of a Shaw Brothers film (and apparently it is?), and also feels like a Jet Li film - as so many HK films in the early 1990's did, or wished they did. Frankly, Aaron Kwok is no Jet Li (in martial arts or acting), but I've always kind of liked him, and this is one of his best roles. He's outshadowed by the mighty Ti Lung though, who gives one of his best post-Shaw Brothers performances as the stately, stoic master with an innocent, secret love for his widow boss (Maggie Cheung, who isn't acting at her best level here). The lovely Wu Chien-Lien plays the love interest for Mr Kwok, giving a charming and natural performance as the young & childish teacher.

The film has a luscious look, sometimes let down by a 'cheap' feel that some early 90's films had - largely because they were made cheaply, no doubt, but the more modern camera equipment in use at the time often seems like a step back from the older equipment used by Shaw Brothers. Bold colours and costumes and strong lighting/filters help to offset whatever the technology lacked, however, so the film mostly looks good, sometimes great.

The action isn't that plentiful, and is generally too sped-up and over-edited, so you can't really see what's going on. This was the trend at the time, of course, and since Aaron isn't exactly a top martial artist we probably aren't missing that much. Ti Lung clearly still had some decent skills though, and didn't need undercranking as much as he was here. When I saw the film years ago I remember being more impressed with the action than I am now, presumably because I've seen a whole lot more (and better) since then.

One criticism I'd level at the film is with the soundtrack. The synth score feels a little cheap, and is frequently overblown. Cheap synth strings just don't have that 'emotional moment' effect that the real instruments do when they swell (and even if they did it would still be a cheap and overused technique). More annoying is the Canto-pop ballads that crop up a few times though, because they don't fit with the film's setting (and they're annoying Canto-pop ballads).

Still, despite a number of criticisms that offer themselves for easy picking, the film is a satisfying enough tale of martial arts and romance, with nasty villains and noble heroes, and a main character that goes through an arc encompassing both. It's not that big, it's not that clever, but it's not too bad as these things go.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: dandan
Date: 02/16/2007
Summary: kung-shoe! (sorry...)

lady boss, miss ho (maggie cheung), owns a successful fabric makers, but she is coming under pressure to sell up to the corrupt owners of a rival company. assisting the lady boss in her struggle is tuan ching-yun (ti lung), a former army general who has left his former life behind him, and huan feng-yao (aaron kwok), the son of tuan's best friend; a young, naive man, but a supreme martial arts talent.

this is an enjoyable enough film; part-western, in it's set up, part-shaw bros, in it's execution, but spun together with a mixture of johnnie to drama and nineties new wave. ti lung and maggie cheung never let you down and aaron kwok does a pretty good job as well. his dance training is put to good use (along with a shed load of wires) in his action sequences and he manages to squeeze in a bit of a cry, as usual.

nothing particularly new and pretty short at eighty-three minutes, but it's entertaining enough and it does have a couple of nice martial arts sequences to keep you pleasantly diverted.

yeah, it's okay...

Reviewed by: Arshadnm6
Date: 04/22/2005
Summary: Aaron Kwok triumphs in a action-packed martial arts extravaganza!!!

A recently orphaned and naive youngster (played by Aaron Kwok from ‘China Strike Force’, ‘Para Para Sakura’ and ‘2000A.D.’) with incredible kung-fu skills shows up in town. After his father’s demise, he goes in search of a close family friend (played by Ti Lung from ‘Blade of Fury’, ‘Drunken Master II’ and ‘Frugal Game’) and joins him alongside the owner of a local clothes dyeing plant (played by Maggie Cheung from ‘Hero’, ‘Moon Warriors’ and ‘Executioners’), who is receiving illegal advances and forceful pressure from the local magistrate to sell her plant to him at a more than generous price. In an effort to gain both the admiration and appreciation of his benefactors by helping the clothes dyeing plant, he inadvertently does some illegal dealings with good intention, which backfires and whereupon he is expelled by the close family friend only to join the local magistrate, who uses him to exact his revenge on both of the youngster’s earlier benefactors. Eventually, the orphan learns the truth and has to muster up the courage and maturity to tackle the local magistrate after the death of the close family friend and utilise some special martial arts skills revealed to him by the later. A local love interest (played by Wu Chien-Lien from ‘To Live and Die in Ysimshatsui’), in the form of a junior children school teacher teaches the orphan benefits of writing his own name as well as introducing him to the beauty of the wider world away from the death and hatred that he has recently experienced.

Aaron Kwok plays a role that resembled his image in the movie industry at that period of a young, inexperienced and energetic beginner. Here Ti Lung provides some mild secretive romance with Maggie Cheung as well as a fatherly and focussed figure for Aaron Kwok’s character to look up to. Additionally, Maggie Cheung uses her wealth of experience to personify a talented and developed lady of high stature in society. Moreover, this offers Wu Chien-Lien an opportunity to inject a different youthful perspective to exaggerate the circumstances of Aaron Kwok’s character. The movie itself is made from a reasonable budget to make it seem authentic enough as a martial arts drama. The comedy is thin and romance with overtones of doomed love seems to dominate throughout the movie. The storyline is simplistic but contains a lot of sub-plots and one or two nice little twists. It mainly focuses on putting messages through to the audience regarding love and immaturity, decision-making and the benefits of experience. The setting of the movie is intentionally dark, possibly to hide the film’s stretched budget. Unfortunately, the character development is limited and the main hero is unclear since Ti Lung excels Aaron Kwok in acting as well as martial arts skills ability portrayed on-screen. This probably expresses one of Aaron Kwok’s worse-off and previously unconvincing displays as the main hero following which he opted to share the role later on in his acting career.

The movie is not an epic and does not try to be one as it sends a few simple yet clear messages throughout the movie. The acting is also believable as the story seems to flow without any of the actors feeling the urge to out-do the others by displaying any over-the-top shenanigans. A failure of this movie is that it was very serious and not humorous enough to be too entertaining. Director Johnnie To was an amateur director at this period and was probably experimenting with all sorts of ideas before realising his god-given talent in the area of modern-day gun-shooting triad/cop stories such as ‘PTU’, ‘Fulltime Killer’ and ‘Running Out of Time I and II’. Action-choreographer Lau Kar-Leung from ‘Operation Scorpio’ aka ‘The Scorpion King’ introduced a wonderful blend of realistic and old-style martial arts to this movie which looks somewhat unpolished in areas due to his lack of experience in recent movies which utilise more complex techniques of enhancing these aspects of the movie.

Overall, this movie is not so bad but not so great either. It makes several points but never delivers a feeling of accomplishment at the end since perhaps its aims were a little low from the start. The few well-known actors perform successfully in their characters but never show anything new to their usual style of acting. A very watch-able production but not very memorable unfortunately and definitely no Oscar-winner!

Overall Rating: 7.1/10

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: pjshimmer
Date: 04/22/2005
Summary: Ng Sin-Lin looks horrible in the greatest of all films

A while ago someone asked me what I consider a good wuxia film. After some consideration of some 75+ wuxia movies I'd seen, my pick went to Barefoot Kid.

Why Barefoot Kid, why not Swordsman II or Hero (2002)? My reasons for selecting Barefood as an outstanding example of wuxia lie in the way I see the film: flawless in every aspect. There is nothing I can complain about the music, the story, the characters, the acting, or the execution. Also, I think a wuxia film works better if the protagonist resembles anti-hero. Here, Aaron Kwok is an abandoned soul in a world of injustice and corruption. He wants to do the right thing and to earn respect, but he isn't aware of the consequences of accepting the easiest path. He makes a mistake. In essence, he represents the vulnerable side of human kind, while still embodying the quality of a wuxia hero--honorable and always helpful.

I mentioned this movie flawless, but it isn't perfect. I felt it failed to deliver good action. Except for Ti Lung's demonstration just before his tragedy, the fight scenes are quite mediocre. Liang uses a lot of slow motion and up-closes and too much editting. Aaron Kwok never shows he can do kung fu (which he can't, of course). It seems that Liu Chia Liang just thought "we'll let wire do all the work." So this film would probably fail on the sole basis of a martial arts actioner.

Fortunately, this movie is not to be judged that way. I was really surprised how great it was, considering its limited popularity.


Reviewer Score: 10

Reviewed by: mpongpun
Date: 11/14/2002

Remake of Chang Cheh's, Invincible One.

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 03/07/2002
Summary: Pretty good actually!!

i dont remember too much about tis film apart from me feeling like it lack enough action. Ti Lung is the stand out of this movie and thats about all i remember........


Reviewed by: Inner Strength
Date: 01/14/2002
Summary: Not too bad

The main problem with this, is the music. Not only does the score sound annoying, but the presence of canto-pop is just a big mistake...considering the film is not based in present time!

But that all aside, it's not too bad, but I don't agree with those who give it top marks, there are a lot of little mistakes that should have been spotted in post-production, but still it's a nice little fun film.

Rating: 3/5

(this rating is based on the year & genre, it's not being compared to films done before or after this.)

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: danton
Date: 01/03/2002

Aaron Kwok plays a country bumpkin who arrives in town without shoes (hence the title) and is hired by a group of weavers led by Maggie Cheung. He's also an expert martial artist, and the movie oscillates between his blossoming love affair with a female teacher played by Wu Chien Lien, Maggie's tender relationship with one of the older weavers played by Ti Lung and the fights with the bad guys (rival weavers). Extremely sentimental, but good fight action and nice cinematography. Feels sort of like an old Shaw Brothers movie. I never much liked Aaron Kwok, but this was a fun movie.

Reviewed by: Souxie
Date: 07/24/2001
Summary: Must - see

Loved this movie. Have yet to see Aaron Kwok repeat his incredible performance here, and let's not forget untouchables Ti Lung and the magnificent Maggie Cheung. Watch it for the fights, remember it for the characters. Aaron at his gotta-love-him best, a heart-wrenching ending and great music (one consolation over the ending: Aaron gets the closing song).

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: suchet
Date: 03/19/2001
Summary: Great drama and martial arts

Aaron is quite watchable in most of his films and this movie is a gem. The story is about a kid (The Bare foot kid.) who is taken in by Maggie Chueng's character. It has a love story in it and father/son typ element with Ti Lung giving a nice performance. I loved the movie and although the bad guys all get what they deserve in the end - the movie still has a downbeat conclusion (which I still enjoyed.) Come on guys - Would you have prefered a happy ending?

Reviewed by: jun-yan
Date: 01/06/2000

The most blatantly sentimental movie I have seen for a quite a while. As someone pointed out to me, the plot is very similar to a western movie, with the elements of a retired (gunfighter) martial artist (Ti Lung) haunted by his past, a kid who wants to be a great (gunfighter) martial artist (Aaron Kwok), a weathered business woman threatened by local bad guys (Maggie Cheung), the effort to avoid conflict that fails, and a vicious villain with no

It is a beautiful film to look at, with rich, bright, saturated colors and picturesque cinematography. Every frame is deliberately pretty. The music is part of the shameless sentimentality as well as the mushy dialoguge. Yikes. It works sometimes, and goes over the top other times. The best thing in this film is the performances of Ti Lung and Maggie Cheung -- perhaps the only people in the entire crew that showed some restraint. The romance between the two middle-age characters is moving regardless of the cheesiness occasionally. That's how a sentimental romance should be done. It shames similar effort like "Titanic".

Aaron Kwok is adequate here, both in the fights and acting, but nothing particularly memorable. The turn of his character is not entirely convincing, which makes him less sympathetic. The villain is deliciously evil, as over the top as other elements of the film.

Overall, it's an enjoyable movie. I was a little disappointed when the movie brought up the issue of hiding one's fighting skills to survive and the consequences of using forces even for good reasons, but it didn't really
deal with it, but simply goes down the conventional path of good guys being pushed to the extreme and having not choice but take up the violence again. It's too light of a film to address this issue anyway. Johnny To is not a profound filmmaker, but he is more interested in manipulating viewers' emotions.

Reviewed by: hokazak
Date: 12/09/1999

Upon his father's death, a poor boy (Aaron Kwok) seeks out his father's friend (Ti Lung) and receives assistance from that friend and his employer (Maggie Cheung). Because of his martial arts prowess, he gets hired by the local police and gets tricked (and partly framed) into betraying his previous benefactors. Bad things are done, and he takes outrageous revenge. Both he and Ti Lung have wonderful one-vs-many semi-tragic/very heroic fight scenes. There is a freshness to the fight choreography which I appreciated. A good script, and 3 or 4 very charismatic main characters.

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

This film watches like a tribute to the mighty Shaw studios. The themes are very Chang Cheh and the action is choreographed by Liu Chia Liang himself. Clever use of the shoe metaphor to follow the line that greater interest in material things and power leads to reduced interest in human values and honour. Aaron Kwok give a sensational performance full of expression ...although, from what i've then seen and heard, he has yet to repeat this standard of performance again ... and Maggie Cheung and Ng Sin Lin are good too. Never any need to heap praise on Dik Lung, of course, the man is practically god. The soundtrack really blew me away, but can the Wong Fei Hung theme tune be bettered? Great combination of symbolic film making while keeping it a 'popular' story-telling film. It would be rude not to mention that the main weapon to be used by the protagonist is the 'three link whip'and that any film with this has got to be good since Gordon Liu 'invented' it in "the master killer".

[Reviewed by Andrew Best]

Reviewed by: spinali
Date: 12/08/1999
Summary: NULL

In this well-paced fu period piece, Maggie Cheung, owner of a small textile business, befriends a beggar (Aaron Kwok). He naively accepts a position as martial arts master, but gets drawn into intrigues way over his head, causing woe for everyone. Engrossing, but I'm not sure what it's all supposed to mean.


[Reviewed by Steve Spinali]

Reviewer Score: 7