As it is, Vice, Adam McKay’s Oscar-nominated Dick Cheney biopic, provides a window into a dystopian cultural future in which movies are just a dizzying string of memes. When it’s not in full polemic mode, clumsily accentuating the finer points of Cheney’s wickedness, Vice busies itself with cycling through countless inane gags, from a protracted fake credits sequence to a brief intervention of Shakespearean verse.
But according to McKay, there was one scene that was too absurd even for his world: a musical number performed by Alabama Shakes singer Brittany Howard. Since the film’s release, there has been much speculation about the discarded song, which was written by Oscar-nominated composer Nicholas Britell and is set to be included as an extra on the film’s DVD and Blu-Ray. Now, ahead of the April 2 DVD release, the scrapped sequence has premiered on Rolling Stone.
Set in a cafeteria, the clip depicts a young Cheney (Christian Bale) grabbing lunch with his then-mentor Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell). As the duo chat about power structures and tricks of the political trade, Howard and several backup dancers encircle them with the performance. “So you want to climb that ladder, where power’s served up on a platter?” Howard belts to begin. We get it: Clawing your way up the political ladder takes some fancy footwork; here’s an enactment of that footwork in a jazzy musical spectacle.
According to McKay, the musical number was ultimately removed during the edit. “It’s breathtaking. It’s incredible. And it just didn’t work,” the director told Variety. “You’re in the editing room and you’re like, ‘This is amazing. This is going to work.’ And you just forget the movie tells you what it wants.”
It’s possible that Howard’s vocals might have improved the director’s divisive diatribe. But when even McKay, the mind behind one of the most insulting post-credits sequences in history, deems the scene a bust in the context of the story, it’s hard to argue against its omission. At least it cuts two minutes off the movie’s runtime.