THE BARE-FOOTED KID (1993) review

The_Bare_Footed_Kid

The Bare-footed Kid is unique in Johnnie To’s filmography in that it is his only period martial arts drama, and judging by its quality one can regret he didn’t work more within that genre. In this loose remake of Chang Cheh’s Disciples of Shaolin, Aaron Kwok plays a penniless orphan who seeks out the help of his late father’s friend (Ti Lung), a renegade general who now works under a fake identity in a dyeing factory headed by a kind widow (Maggie Cheung) whose commercial success hinges on a professional secret. They provide the kid with a roof, a job, and most importantly in his eyes, shoes. But when he takes part in a fighting tournament, his impressive martial arts abilities draw the attention of a corrupt official (Eddie Cheung) and a ruthless competitor in the dying business (Kenneth Tsang). He also falls in love with a pretty school teacher (Wu Chien Lien), whom he begs to teach him how to write his name. But soon his naive, suggestible nature and misguided attempts to help his benefactors precipitate a tragic turn of events as he finds himself torn between the lure of power and his devotion to the people who care for him.

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DRUNKEN MONKEY (2004) review

When Liu Chia-Liang, the legendary director/actor of the Shaw Brothers’ heyday, directed Drunken Monkey in 2003, he was coming off a nearly ten-year hiatus from movies, having last directed (and butted heads with) Jackie Chan in the indisputable classic Drunken Master II. He was 67 years-old and the kind of costumed martial arts movie he had been famous for (like My Young Auntie, Mad Monkey Kung Fu or The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, to name only a few) had been out of fashion for a long time. Indeed, thrillers about undercover cops or cgi-heavy action extravaganzas were all the rage, and Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Donnie Yen and Sammo Hung Kam-Bo were working mostly overseas. Sure, Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Zhang Yimou’s Hero had triumphed domestically as well as internationally, but they represented painterly wire-fu rather than the more down-to-earth, blistering brand of kung fu that Liu had been famous for.

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MY YOUNG AUNTIE (1981) review

My Young Auntie was the breakout film for Kara Hui, a young actress with a background in ballet, who was legendary director Liu Chia Liang’s protégé and, some say, his mistress. Gossip aside, she was indeed quite a sensation, earning the Hong Kong Film Award for best actress in this award show’s first ever edition in 1981. And you can see why: cute and graceful, sprightly and playful, she was – and is – also a fine actress capable of immediately earning the public’s sympathies. In a way, she was superseded shortly after by Michelle Yeoh, a more striking performer in every way ; still, Hui remains a unique presence to this day, having made a bit of a comeback after a string of obscure films in the nineties. Directed by Liu Chia Liang, My Young Auntie has Kara Hui play a young woman of modest origins, who is married by a kind and wealthy old man who fears his fortune could go to his cruel brother after his impending death. After he dies, Hui meets his nephew (played by the director himself) and his son (Hsiao Hao), a hyperactive student. She then has to impose herself as the family’s dean (although she’s younger than everyone), while fending off the cruel brother’s attempts to reclaim the inheritance.

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