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Film / The Bare-footed Kid

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A DVD cover showing the titular hero living up to his name.

The Bare-footed Kid is a 1993 Martial Arts Movie directed by Johnnie To, starring Ti Lung, Maggie Cheung and a very young Aaron Kwok in arguably the role that kickstarted his career in the early 90s. It's a remake of Disciples of Shaolin.

Kwok stars as Kwan Fung-yiu, the son of a deceased martial artist who left his hometown after his family's downfall. Stripped of all his prized possessions, including his shoes (hence the title), and having knowledge in exactly nothing save for fighting, Kwan travels to the big city to rendezvous with Master Tuan (Ti Lung), an old friend of his father, who is a retired kung-fu fighter himself. Master Tuan owns the "Four Seasons Weaver" silk factory, the largest silk mill in the city, alongside the mill's resident head seamstress Madam Pak (Maggie), but another factory called the "Tin Lung Spinner" owned by the ruthless Master Hak Wo-po, wants to have the Four Seasons Weaver eliminated at all costs.


Being poor, illiterate and a loner, Kwan finds it difficult to fit working in the weaver, had to juggle his feelings for the daughter of a local martial artist Wong-lin (Jacklyn Wu) who befriended Kwan, and his own desires to make a name for himself despite his status.

Although the film was produced by Cosmopolitan Films, much of its resources, from screenplay to inspiration and production, comes from Hong Kong's Shaw Brothers studios. At the time of production, Shaw Brothers was is on its last legs, ready to close down all productions and be converted to a tourist attraction instead of a film studio. As such, it is not uncommon for international re-releases to consider this movie to be an honorary member of the Shaw Brothers film catalogue.


Bare-footed Tropers:

  • Arranged Marriage: One between Madam Pak Siu-kwan and an unnamed boy from a neighbouring wealthy family, back when she was a child. Which didn't work because the boy died before she can reach adulthood, and is forced by her own family to remain single due to upholding family honour.
  • Barefoot Poverty: Played straight with Kwan showing up in the film barefoot, from being penniless after the death of his father and downfall of his family. When he gains a position of authority in the Tin Lung Mill, the first thing he gets is a new change of clothing... and new shoes. Look how overjoyed he is at the sight of those shoes!
  • Book Ends: Kwan Fung-yiu enters the film barefoot as a penniless drifter, eventually made it big as a martial arts enforcer and fighter, but by the end of the film he casts his shoes aside to pick up the blade of his flail and impale it into Master Hak Wo-po's chest, right before he dies, thus ending his final scene barefoot as well.
  • Confirmed Bachelor: Madam Pak Siu-kwan, the mistress and co-owner of the Four Seasons Weaver, is doomed to remain a spinster for the rest of her life, despite Master Tuan havig feelings for her and the affection between them being mutual. Her backstory states that as a child, she was bethrothed to another boy from a neighbouring rich family, but the boy she was supposedly engaged to dies before they can reach adulthood.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Kwan, after Wong-lin's Armor-Piercing Question, ends up getting drunk in a brothel while reflecting what he had become as just another henchman to Master Hak.
  • Epic Flail: Kwan's weapon in his final scene. It's a prized Ancestral Weapon and family heirloom left behind from his father, and Kwan proves himself to be really good at using it in taking names.
  • Feet-First Introduction: The very first thing audiences see from the protagonist Kwan Fung-yiu is his bare foot stepping into view in the streets.
  • Fight Clubbing: One of the side-jobs Kwan undertook in order to earn some money when entering the city. He notably uses his foot to smear a footprint on his fighting ring opponent's face.
  • Fish out of Water: Kwan when he first arrived in the big city. We're talking about a town boy who is illiterate, and have skills in nothing save for fighting.
  • Handy Feet: After defeating maybe two dozen of Master Hak Wo-po's mooks, but getting mortally wounded by Master Hak in the process, Kwan instead kicks off his shoes to pick up his flail using his toes and stab his opponent to death.
  • Human Pincushion: Master Tuan Ching-yun gets skewered by arrows from a dozen of Master Hak Wo-po's archers in the finale. Amazingly, he managed to kill all his would-be killers, and pass his knowledge of fighting with a flail to Kwan, before he succumbs.
  • Instant Expert: Kwan becomes an expert in fighting with a flail after watching Master Tuan using said weapon to take down a dozen mooks.
  • Never Learned to Read: Kwan starts off as an illiterate, and never learns a single word even as he rises in power as a martial arts enforcer. After boasting his new position of power to his Love Interest Wong-lin, she instead delivers this Armor-Piercing Question:
    Wong-lin: You may be rich and powerful now, but do you even know how to spell your name?
  • One-Man Army: Kwan in the final battle, taking on dozens and dozens of mooks thanks to his flail.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: By the end of the film, Madam Pak is implied to be pregnant with Master Tuan's child, after Tuan had died.
  • Unlikely Hero: The titular bare-footed kid starts off an illiterate, penniless drifter who's constantly made fun of, but slowly rises in his ranks and just keep going from there.
  • What You Are in the Dark: Kwan Fung-yiu, who started the film as a poor illiterate drifter, after realizing after all he had achieved as a martial arts instructor and bodyguard to a wealthy man, is ultimately still an illiterate loner with no real friends. His Love Interest Wang-lin's Armor-Piercing Question is what made him eventually snap out of his illusion of being a successful man when he's just another hired thug for Master Hak Wo-po.