The Bare-Footed Kid (1993)
Reviewed by: MrBooth on 2007-02-20
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

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