The Bare-Footed Kid (1993)
Reviewed by: Arshadnm6 on 2005-04-22
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