For the most part, the extra 18 or 19 minutes of footage in the American Gangster Extended Cut DVD (out Tuesday) feeds right into the whole with a sense of absolute harmony. We all know what it feels like when a film has had lumps added to its stocking with “flavor” or directorial “darlings.” This is not one of those cases. This is more like the extended Bugsy or Aliens. I would have been that much happier with American Gangster if these extras had been in from the get-go.
Josh Brolin (center), Ridley Scott (r.) during preparation of American Gangster‘s dog-shooting scene
The two biggest stand-outs are a “Bumpy on the beach” scene (a flashback to Denzel Washington and Clarence Williams III talking about supply and demand and the middle man out at Coney Island) and a follow/chase scene with Richie Roberts/Russell Crowe tailing a member of Frank Lucas’s gang who’s “carrying.”
One of the additional scenes seems gratuitous, but only a wee bit. I’m speaking of an extended finale after Washington gets out of prison and finds Crowe saying “welcome back” and taking him on a walk through the new Harlem. I enjoyed a line that Washington says about a trio of young hip-hoppers (“I guess you can only be young and dumb once” or something similar) that’s taken verbatim from Lucas in Marc Jacobson‘s “Return of Superfly” article. But the ending in the theatrical version is tighter, cleaner, preferred.
Disc 2, however, has an omitted alternate beginning that’s far superior to the one used in the theatrical version. Instead of a short nighttime scene with Washington setting a guy on fire and then shooting him as Williams looks on, the alternate is a blue-tinted, dialogue-free prologue in a diner (or a bar) that shows Washington walking in the front door and plugging a guy who’s just sitting there and tapping the seat of a chair with with a pair of drumsticks. The spooky, dreamlike aura gets you right off the top. I can’t imagine why Scott decided to use the other scene instead. Scott uses the last portion of this sequence at the tail-end of the extended version, after the closing credits.