2 0 1 3 年 6 月 2 4 日

What does Bradley Cooper say in Chinese at the end of Limitless? (2011)


Bradley Cooper’s character says something in Chinese at the end of Limitless (2011), but what is it? Here’s the scene if you haven’t seen the film (it happens right at the end before the credits):

The plot of the film is that there is a drug called NTZ which makes people extremely intelligent, and at the very end Bradley Cooper’s character speaks Chinese as a way to round off this idea. He makes some sort of joke with the waiter but his (Bradley Cooper) accent is so terrible that it’s pretty hard to follow.

Here’s a transcript of the exchange:

Cooper:
炸酱面、两个葱油饼、青葱烧龙虾。千万不要给我味精!
Zhá jiàng miàn, liǎng gè cōng yóubǐng, qīngcōng shāo lóngxiā. Qiān wàn bùyào gěi wǒ wèijīng!
Zhajiang noodles, two onion oil cakes, spring onion roast lobster. Absolutely do not give me MSG!

Waiter:
围巾会保护你的衣服。
Wéijīn huì bǎohù nǐ de yīfú.
A scarf will protect your clothes.

Cooper:
可是不会保护我的肮脏手!
Kěshì bù huì bǎohù wǒ de āng zāng shǒu!
But it won’t protect my dirty hands!

The joke uses a pun in Mandarin: 味精 (wèijīng) MSG sounds very similar to 围巾 (wéijīn) scarf. Even knowing that, though, the joke is still a bit weird and difficult to understand.

The idea is that Bradley Cooper is ordering lobster and says he doesn’t want any MSG, so the waiter jokes that a scarf (i.e. a bib) would protect his clothes whilst eating the lobster. Cooper says that it wouldn’t protect his dirty hands, i.e. as he gets into politics.

Ho ho ho.

Not the best joke in the world, actually a pretty bizarre one even without the cross-language difficulty. The leap from protecting your clothes to “protecting” your “dirty hands” just doesn’t quite work in English.

Besides that, as far as I know, “dirty hands” as we might associate it (vaguely!) with politics in English doesn’t really have the same meaning in Chinese. That added to Bradley Cooper’s awful pronunciation of the Mandarin, especially the second bit, made it pretty much impossible to figure out in my view.

Tip of the hat to this for doing all the work!

 

Chinese at the end of Limitless


  • Razzle Storm

    Exactly! Not to mention that 味精 and 围巾 aren’t similar enough in Mandarin to be good puns. I actually saw this in a theater in Beijing, and everyone burst out laughing after the first line, because it was obvious that he was trying to speak Chinese, but he was unintelligible.

    • http://eastasiastudent.net/about Hugh Grigg (葛修远)

      Yeah, I saw this again later in a flat with several Chinese people – absolutely no-one could tell what Bradley Cooper was on about at all.

  • Dan Jones

    Where did these subtitles come from? I don’t think they’re correct. It seems to me that Cooper’s asking the waiter for a napkin (because he had just ordered lobster) and the waiter playfully asks if it’s going to protect his clothes. Then Cooper says that it would, but not his hands. I arrived at this conclusion for two reasons: he seems to use a rising tone when asking for the napkin, whereas the word for MSG in Mandarin starts with an obvious wei4, not wei2). I also don’t hear the 不/bu4 at all here, meaning that he would be asking for MSG. Again, doesn’t make sense. Plus, it’s a fancy restaurant.

    The Chinese is absolutely horrific, honestly. I speak French and Chinese. Cooper can speak French well. Not great, but OK. His Chinese is unintelligible. He does however do a good job of speaking Mandarin with some sort of Cantonese-sounding inflection. It makes it sound more authentic to the bewildered non-Chinese speaking audience. To Chinese speakers, it’s a farce.