Brow Beat

Where Does The Irishman Rank Among Other Sweary Scorsese Movies?

Robert De Niro has a black box with the word CENSORED over his mouth.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Netflix.

This post contains profanity-related spoilers for The Irishman.

Nearly six years have passed since The Wolf of Wall Street made headlines for featuring an abundance of F-words—somewhere around 569 in the entire three-hour movie. Though reports that Wolf broke the F-word record may have been exaggerated, the number was certainly notable for a Hollywood feature and a personal best for director Martin Scorsese. At three and a half hours, Scorsese’s new movie The Irishman has an extra 30 minutes for the director to pack in the profanity and set a new record for himself. Did he live up to the challenge?

The only way to find out was to sit in the theater with a pen and a notebook and tally up every utterance of the work fuck, so that’s what I did. I tried to count each individual mention of the swear as well as its variations (fucking, motherfucker, etc.), which wasn’t always easy. The Irishman contains long fuckless stretches, and then a character will arrive and drop a barrage of F-bombs, sometimes while being shot at or stomped on or otherwise maimed, making it difficult to be sure what’s an F-word and what’s a cry of pain.

Still, by my count, the total number of F-words comes in at a measly 136, nowhere near the number in The Wolf of Wall Street or even Casino or Goodfellas—422 and 300 F-words, respectively, at least according to Wikipedia’s “List of films that most frequently use the word fuck.” (Both entries cite the now-defunct The Irishman won’t even make Wikipedia’s chart.

Unlike in Casino or Goodfellas, Joe Pesci is not the potty-mouth in chief of The Irishman. That honor belongs to Pacino, whose Jimmy Hoffa is prone to profanity when he gets upset—which happens a lot. “He turned into a fucking eggplant,” he rages about Joe Kennedy after his stroke. Another character can’t get an idea through “his fat fucking Sicilian head,” Hoffa complains. A barrage of obscenities sprayed at a room full of mobsters leads even Hoffa’s buddy Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) to storm out of the room. “You gonna call me a motherfucker?” Sheeran asks him indignantly.

Hoffa mollifies Sheeran by explaining that he didn’t mean to call Sheeran a motherfucker—he didn’t even know he was in the room. Hoffa can’t say the same to Tony Provenzano (Stephen Graham), aka “the little guy” or “that whining cocksucker from New Jersey.” Cocksucker is Hoffa’s preferred insult in the movie, as it was when Jack Nicholson played him in Hoffa, and he repeatedly uses it to refer to Provenzano, including at least once to his face. (Funnily enough, it’s not cocksucker but Hoffa’s use of “you people” that rankles Provenzano so much that he later demands an apology for what he considers an ethnic slur.)

If The Irishman’s F-words are nothing to write home about, it at least has a notable number of cocksuckers: I only started counting after the first three or four mentions, but there are at least 15. That’s one respect in which The Irishman bests The Wolf of Wall Street, which has only five. But somewhere out there, Deadwood creator David Milch is rolling his eyes, unimpressed.