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Film / They Call Me Bruce

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They Call Me Bruce (also known as They Call Me Bruce? and A Fistful of Chopsticks) is a 1982 American action comedy directed by Elliott Hong that has a Korean man (Johnny Yune) being mistaken for a martial arts expert due to being named after Bruce Lee. Things are further complicated when he's used by The Mafia as an unwitting courier for a shipment of drugs.

In 1987 a sequel was made They Still Call Me Bruce.

The movie also stars Margaux Hemingway, Raf Mauro, and Bill Capizzi.

Not to be confused with My Name is Bruce.

Tropes for the film:

  • Accidental Hero:
    • Bruce tries to stop a mugging only to knock himself unconscious along with the mugger. The shop owner then gives a highly-exaggerated tale of Bruce's martial arts prowess to reporters. Mafia boss Lil' Pete sees the article and decides Bruce will make an excellent (though unwitting) courier for his drugs, seeing as kung-fuing FBI agents have been busting up his drug operation.
    • Bruce is brandishing a katana to impress the women at a geisha house. Meanwhile a hitman is sneaking up him on the opposite side of the shōji. Bruce goes to sheave his sword, misses the scabbard and stabs the hitman through the paper wall.
  • Action Girl: Anita (who like the other FBI agents knows kung fu) and Karmen; Big Al's dominatrix wife whom he sends to steal the cocaine from Bruce. As it's in Anita's interest for the cocaine to arrive safely so the FBI can arrest the Boss of Bosses, this leads to the inevitable kung fu Cat Fight between the two.
  • All Asians Know Martial Arts: Since Bruce is Asian everybody assumes he knows kung fu — and he uses this fact to escape from a would-be mugger with a Sinister Switchblade.
    Bruce: With my right foot, I can knock out that knife. With my left, I can kick your nose. With this hand I can poke out your eyes, with this I can break your neck. Take a good look at my face. I'm an Oriental!
    • Unfortunately the second time he tries this trick against some guys in a bar, they're not impressed and Bruce has to do a Bathroom Breakout.
  • Appropriated Appellation: The Nameless protagonist works as the cook for a mob boss who calls him "Bruce" after Bruce Lee because his passing resemblance to the famous martial artist. So he starts calling himself Bruce, leading to a Running Gag of people assuming he knows Kung Fu if he's called by that name.
  • A-Cup Angst: As Bruce is in a hot tub, a beautiful masseuse enters and slips off her robe. Bruce exclaims that she is a "10", which she is quite pleased about until Bruce clarifies: "You are 10 where you should be 36." The woman looks embarrassed and sinks into the tub to hide her chest area.
  • Bathroom Breakout: Bruce is bragging to Anita in a bar about his (non-existent) martial arts prowess, when some of the locals take offense and challenge him to a fight. Bruce pretends he has to take a leak, but in his panic he enters the ladies room and gets beaten with a handbag by an outraged occupant, then while trying to climb through the window he breaks the toilet cistern so when the hoodlums barge in to stop him they get a face-full of toilet water.
  • Covers Always Lie: The cover artwork for the 2003 Australian DVD release was a parody of the poster for Kill Bill, making it appear as if it was a Mockbuster of that film.
  • Dirty Old Man: Bruce's grandfather tells him that the most important thing in life isn't money—it's broads. And this is just before he dies too.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: A mob boss sends his goons to kill Bruce and steal the cocaine, then casually asks them to remind him to call his mother on Tuesday.
  • Everybody Must Get Stoned: After being thrown into the lockup after a Bar Brawl, Bruce decides to use the flour to make something to eat. Frankie tries to stop him, the bag bursts in the struggle and a fan blows the cocaine everywhere, making both sheriff and prisoners as high as a kite. The sheriff decides to let everyone out of their cells and they go off for a joyride in his squad car.
  • Everybody Was Kung-Fu Fighting: Played for laughs; everyone from FBI agents to street hoodlums are into martial arts, but Bruce is just pretending to know it.
  • Funny Foreigner: Bruce is the usual bumbling foreigner getting used to our strange American ways—not that the Americans he meets are any better given that they only seem to know about Asians from martial arts movies.
  • Glass-Shattering Sound: In a Shout-Out to the Memorex commercial (where Ella Fitzgerald breaks a wine glass by singing a high note... and then replaying the recording of Ella singing also causes glass to shatter), a kung fu master tries to instruct Bruce how to make a Kiai shout. When Bruce tries it, a nearby glass cabinet shatters. The original even gets referenced.
    Master: Was that you?!
    Bruce: No, Memorex!
  • Gratuitous Ninja: During a Bar Brawl, Anita steps into a phone booth and does a Wonder Woman twirl that transforms her into a ninja who proceeds to kick everyone's butts. Foreshadowed in her first action scene when Anita uses a shuriken to take down a gun-wielding Mafia mook.
  • Hidden Wire: The necklace Anita gives to Bruce, enabling her to get evidence on all the mobsters he meets. At the end of the movie Bruce gives it to Freddy as he's being taken into protective custody, so he will always know where his friend is.
  • Hypocritical Humor: The Old Master who preaches control of emotions, only to keep losing his temper due to Bruce's antics.
  • I Know Karate: The problem is he doesn't, but Bruce still likes using this trope to impress women or fend off muggers.
  • Imagine Spot: Bruce meets Anita in a bar, but is forced to flee in a Humiliation Conga after he challenged by other patrons. He then imagines himself returning and impressing her by taking down his attackers. Smash Cut to Bruce smashing up his furniture during his fantasy, only to stop on seeing he doesn't have Invulnerable Knuckles.
  • Interchangeable Asian Cultures: Parodied; the protagonist is Korean, but his boss calls him "Bruce" because of Racial Face Blindness. Given that 'Bruce' is a Genre Savvy fan of martial arts movies, he has no problem playing the role to make himself look cooler, whether pretending to be a Chinese kung fu warrior or a Japanese samurai.
  • Jive Turkey: Bruce and Freddy run into trouble with a New York street gang. Bruce tries using a book titled Jive Talkin' by Yo Mama to speak their language. They're not impressed at first, but end up teaching Bruce how to speak jive properly.
  • Let's You and Him Fight: Bruce is accosted by a gang of thugs who wish to test his martial arts skills. When one thug demonstrates he himself is proficient at martial arts, Bruce compliments him on his skill and asks who his teacher was. When the thug answers, Bruce claims to have studied under the same sensei and says that because of "the code" it means they can't fight each other. Then, when a second thug tells him that he studied under a different sensei, Bruce says "that's great, that means you two can fight each other!" and goads them into doing so while he quietly slips away.
  • Master of Disguise: The FBI make busts while disguised as waiters and Hare Krishnas (including a Hair Flip when they pull off their latex head coverings). When it's time to arrest the Boss of Bosses, they burst out of crates and containers in the warehouse they're in.
  • Miserable Massage: While Bruce is getting a massage, Karmen sneaks into the room and knocks out the masseuse so she can steal the bag of flour (actually cocaine) that Bruce is delivering. She has to pretend to be the masseuse but doesn't know how to do it; first she tries walking on his back and then jabbing him with an acupuncture needle, eventually knocking Bruce out which makes her task easier.
    Bruce: Owww! Oriental women walk five feet behind a man; American woman walk all over man!
  • Nobody Here but Us Statues: Bruce is being chased by gangsters, so he hides in a dress shop disguised as a dummy. The gangsters are not idiots, so one of them stabs each dummy. As he's about to stab Bruce, the shop owner shrieks, distracting their attention so Bruce can change his position in the line. When Bruce is about to get stabbed again, the shop owner claims He Went That Way, but unfortunately a relieved Bruce makes the mistake of speaking.
  • One Head Taller: Gender inverted with Karmen and Anita who tower over Big Al and Bruce.
  • Pain Mistaken for Sex: Anita and Karmen are fighting each other, smashing up the motel room Bruce is using (Bruce is in the shower unaware). Next door his friend Freddy is with a High-Class Call Girl who's impressed with all the noise Bruce is apparently making, and tells Freddy to get Bruce to call her next time. Freddy goes next door and finds Bruce coming out of the shower and two women unconscious from exhaustion in his bed. He decides his friend has had enough Destructo-Nookie for one night and insists they leave.
  • Punch a Wall: Played for Laughs when the Kung Fu master claims that with control of your emotions you can do anything, including punch a hole through a brick wall. Bruce doubts this is possible, and when everyone else agrees the old master loses his temper and punches a hole in the wall, revealing a pretty 'massage girl' on the other side who says he's early for his session.
  • Questioning Title?: The title is sometimes rendered as They Call Me Bruce?
  • Raw Eggs Make You Stronger: Parodied when Bruce tries to do it but decides it would be better to make egg foo-young with them.
  • Right-Hand Cat: The Boss of Bosses rings up the West Coast mafia to express his disapproval about the FBI busting their drug operation. While he's talking he's stroking a white Persian cat, and suddenly plunges his hand into a fish tank and takes out a goldfish...which he then eats himself. He then threatens to eat them next if they don't get their act together.
  • Road Trip Plot: Lil' Pete convinces Bruce to drive to New York, with Frankie acting as his chauffeur, and distribute his 'flour' on the way. Various rival families try to stop the shipment, with Anita and her FBI team secretly acting as Bruce's protector so they can gather evidence against the Boss of Bosses.
  • Shoot Out the Lock: After escaping the police, Bruce still has handcuffs attached to one wrist. Fortunately they come across a friendly cowboy.
    Cowboy: Looks like you got yourself in a heap of trouble there, partner. Or did you just marry a cop?
    Freddy: Excuse me, do you know a blacksmith who can get this handc—err, bracelet off my friend?
    Cowboy: I'll do better than that for ya. Hold your arm out straight there.
    Freddy: Ohhhsh(flees as the cowboy shoots off the handcuffs).
  • Show Some Leg: When the police pull over Freddy and Bruce and are going to arrest them, Anita turns up in her van and asks for their help. They leave Bruce half-cuffed and rush off to do Favors for the Sexy, only to get knocked unconscious by the FBI agents while Freddy and Bruce quickly drive off.
  • Smooch of Victory: When Bruce gets newspaper fame for foiling a robbery, Anita gives him both a kiss and a necklace in recognition of his heroics. The necklace is actually a Hidden Wire and Anita gets embarrassed when it relays Bruce bragging about the kiss in lurid detail, to the amusement of her fellow FBI agents.
  • Super Fly Reflexes: Parodied when Bruce slices a fly with a samurai sword, only to miss (because he's not the martial arts expert he's pretending to be). Bruce then claims that the fly "will make love no longer".
  • That Came Out Wrong
    • The Old Master tells Bruce that mental control is the key to Kung Fu, only to lose his own mental control and throw Bruce out of his dojo.
      Bruce: But I want to be mental.
      Master: You already are mental!
    • The heavily-accented Bruce talking of his love of sushi ends up getting him into a Bar Brawl when a Texan assumes he's referring to his girlfriend Suzie.
  • To Win Without Fighting: Justified as Bruce can't fight anyway. When challenged by street thugs, he has a flashback to his grandfather advising him to be willing to fight dirty, but above all use his brains. Bruce then talks the thugs into challenging each other while he slips away.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Bruce thinks he's delivering bags of Chinese flour to Lil' Pete's friends across America. Lil' Pete is a Mafia boss and the 'flour' is actually cocaine.
  • When You Snatch the Pebble: As a young boy Bruce is challenged to do this trope by his grandfather, so replies that there's a large bird hovering over him. His father laughs at the idea that he could be fooled by such a simple trick, whereupon said bird promptly poops on his head, enabling Bruce to snatch away the stone.
  • World's Most Beautiful Woman: As he's dying, Bruce's grandfather tells him to find the most beautiful woman in America, whom he once fell in love with, who will take care of him. She turns out to be the Statue of Liberty. As Bruce walks off with Anita at the end of the movie, Lady Liberty winks at him and reminds Bruce of what the most important thing in life is.
  • Your Head A-Splode: The Chicago mafia asks a hitman how he plans to kill Bruce. After enthusiastically demonstrating various methods on a store dummy, the silenced pistol with explosive bullets that blows up its head gets their unanimous approval.