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THE BARE-FOOTED KID is a 1990s remake of the old 1970s Chang Cheh Shaw Brothers film DISCIPLES OF SHAOLIN. Aaron Kwok takes the titular role, one which was played by Alexander Fu Sheng in the original, and the film was directed by Johnnie To, right around the time he was making the HEROIC TRIO movies. Like many 1990s Hong Kong movies, this film's all about wire work and outlandish martial arts.The plot is a simple one with similarities to YOJIMBO. The main character is a pauper who arrives at a dyeing workshop and soon finds himself involved with the people who run it. Unfortunately for him, a rival business owner is desperate for the workshop's secrets, and violence soon erupts between the two companies with the bare-footed kid right at the heart of it.This is a fun, light, and rather insubstantial film. For the first hour it plays out exactly as you would expect, with lots of cheesy music and romantic scenes and earnest acting from the main cast members. There's plenty of action here, all of it defying the laws of gravity in the best '90s Hong Kong tradition. I used to hate this wire work stuff for its lack of realism, but it has grown on me over the years and I can appreciate the visual artistry nowadays.Aaron Kwok is merely adequate as the titular character. He's handsome enough but he doesn't have much charisma, although I suppose his talents would grow with experience over the years. The supporting cast is much more interesting, featuring as it does Shaw Brothers legend Ti Lung in a strong role as a steadfast ally. It's a little like Lung's part in DRUNKEN MASTER II, although Lung has less acting to do here and more fighting. He does get at least one fantastic scene to himself. Maggie Cheung plays it subdued and is far less annoying than usual, and Kenneth Tsang is reliable as ever as the baddie of the piece. The film really hits hard for the insanely dramatic climax, the one part of the movie that successfully recaptures the old Shaw Brothers spirit.
Johnnie To's remake of the Shaw Brothers 1975 hit, The Invincible One (aka Disciples Of Shaolin), is indeed a classic of the Hong Kong New Wave era. With a great performance from all its main cast, a memorable score by William Hu Wei Li, gorgeous cinematography by Horace Wong, and fantastic fight choreography courtesy of the late, great Lau Kar Leung - who incidentally was the action director on Chang Cheh's original film. A modern take on a classic story of redemption and doomed love, wrapped up in a coming-of-age tale that, unfortunately, doesn't have the happiest of endings...When I had this on VHS from the brilliant Made In Hong Kong label, I wore out the video tape in no time at all. I loved it then, and still love it as much now. Produced by Mona Fong and the Shaw Brothers studio, The Bare-Footed Kid may offer nothing new as such to long-time fans of kung-fu films, but it still feels as fresh and looks just as amazing today as it did all those years ago!Aaron Kwok is just gorgeous and wonderfully cute in this as the titular character, naïve and innocent to the world around him, abused by many and easily led astray. This is one of my favourite Kwok movies, and think he is just wonderful in everything from the drama and comedy, to the awesome kung-fu action scenes. Kwok is supported by the amazing Hong Kong film legend that is Ti Lung, a man with a secret past who now works for the equally impressive Maggie Cheung, both of who are also lovers, As the boss of the bye factory, Maggie runs a fair but tight ship producing top-quality fabrics, helping the needy, and making great business which angers her competitor, played by the great Kenneth Tsang.Tsang is as wonderfully wicked as always as the boss of the Dragon Spinners; the gangster dye factory causing all the trouble. After a great martial-arts tournament, Tsang tricks Kwok into working for him with a new pair of shoes, and a promise of big money. Of course, Aaron doesn't have a clue of his new masters plans in putting his new friends...As mentioned, the film is shot beautifully with thanks to cinematographer Horace Wong who has shot everything from Twin Dragons to The Myth, King Of Comedy, and pretty much, every major John Woo hit. His mix of handheld shots and epic sweeps are aided by some wonderful lighting, making almost every frame of The Bare-Footed Kid, just gorgeous to look at. The incredible night scene with Ti Lung and Maggie Cheung going out on a date in the pouring rain, is one such scene - and one of many.The legendary Lau Kar Leung provides some crisp and powerful kung-fu fights, a lot of which is aided by wires, although not in a distracting way. The only let-down for me in this film was a couple of moments of over-cranking during action. It didn't need it, and while noticeable, did not ruin the action on-screen at the time as it was brief. Regardless, both Kwok and Ti Lung get to kick ass a number of times, and both look amazing doing it. Ti Lung's tea-house battle and fight for survival is a highlight, as is the epic finale with Kwok taking on everyone. Just brilliant!Wu Chien Lien, who had starred with Aaron in A Moment Of Romance 2 that same year, starts off as a pretty unlikeable girl but soon turns things around, taking a fancy to Aaron and becoming closer after the murder of her father, of which Kwok was a part off unknowingly...Fans of Sammo Hung's Blade Of Fury and Jet Li's Fong Sai Yuk movies will love The Bare-Footed Kid. With stunning fight sequences, romance, emotion and melodrama, you can't help but fall for it!Overall: Beautifully directed, funny, charming and action-packed, The Bare-Footed Kid is a modern classic and highly recommended!