Gary Oldman (Batman Begins) and Chloe Webb (The Newton Boys) execute performances that are "nothing short of phenomenal" (Los Angeles Times) as Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious and his unforgettable junkie girlfriend - two social misfits who literally love each other to death. In this "riveting biography of burnt-out-icons" (The Washington Post), award-winning writer/director Alex Cox (Repo Man) creates "a great film" (Siskel & Ebert) about the destructive lives of two 1970s punk legends.
Their love affair is one of pure devotion. Sid falls hard for groupie Nancy Spungen, who seduces him with her affection - and addiction to heroin. Their inseparable bond - to each other and their drugs - eventually corrodes the band, sending Sid & Nancy down a dark road of despair. Out of money, hope and options, the despondent two hit rock bottom while living in squalor at New York's infamous Hotel Chelsea. But their journey takes yet another tragic turn as they face their final curtain - and attempt to fulfill their destiny of going out in a blaze of glory!
'Sid and Nancy' tells the true story of a very strange, pathetically unfortunate, and awfully disastrous relationship of two terribly self-destructive individuals. Loosely based on the volatile love affair of The Sex Pistols bassist, Sid Vicious, and his American groupie, Nancy Spungen, the film commences like any other tried-and-true plot of a fairytale romance — boy meets girl, their differences keep them apart, but soon they unite to live happily ever after. Only, this story begins on a somber note and grows progressively worse. Their happily-ever-after is pure fantasy, something which ultimately only exists in their minds. But in spite of all this, their love and commitment to one another is shockingly genuine and more honest than most anything Hollywood normally conjures up or could ever imagine to.
Directed by the curiously unconventional filmmaker of many cult features, Alex Cox, the biopic drama is a brazen embellishment, full of inaccuracies and made mostly from conjecture, but that's part of the intention from a script co-written by Cox, where the deliberate focus is only on the title characters, not the history of The Sex Pistols, frontman Johnny Rotten or their manager Malcolm McLaren. Cox does a terrific job in keeping Sid and Nancy as our focal point throughout while music history just seems to crop up around them, like the Bill Grundy TV interview and the band's performance on the River Thames. That particular scene shows them totally wasted and amusingly unaware of their surroundings, but they simply walk away like lovers on a nightly stroll. Next to 1987's 'Walker' or his better-known 'Repo Man,' this is the British director's best film, despite some choppy editing and questionable camera movement.
Since the center of attention is the two lovebirds, the film's success and energy is greatly dependent upon the performance of the leads, and Cox was extraordinarily lucky in discovering two unknown talents at the time. Making her feature-length debut, Chloe Webb takes the role and runs with it, turning in a marvelous portrayal of a disturbed young woman frequently described even by close friends as unpleasantly annoying. And Webb isn't shy about displaying this side of Nancy's personality, often coming off a gratingly irritating person. But Webb also adds another aspect to her characterization, revealing a terribly lonely little girl aware of how others view her. As in the scene the morning after her first night with Sid, Webb's stunned reaction exposes deep, emotional suffering which instantly has us pitying her rather than completely despising her.
The only person to outdo Webb is, not surprisingly, the now highly-regarded award-winner Gary Oldman in his career-launching role as the inimitable Sid Vicious. Mr. Oldman, too, goes beyond a simple portrayal of a famous individual, breathing life to someone who would otherwise only be remembered as a raucous, brutal Sex Pistol. There's a great deal of frank intensity and boyish appetite for life in Oldman's performance, which we see sadly fade away with time and give way to the anguishing emptiness of drug addiction. Yet within that torpid hollowness and a fire long extinguished, he manages the strength to lift his arm around the woman he loves while their hotel room bursts into flames. Oldman doesn't merely act out the role; he embodies both the stereotyped public image of Sid Vicious and the rarely-seen temperament of a young idealist in love. It's the performance which earned the film's one and only praise from its most vocal critic and Sid's best friend, Johnny Rotten.
'Sid and Nancy' is also further proof that Roger Deakins is quite possibly the greatest cinematographer of our time. Serving as one of his earlier works behind the camera, the film amazingly demonstrates his talent for creating a visual design that emanates a mood and bears a haunting mien, leaving a lasting impression of unspoken ideas. It's remarkably beautiful the way in which he makes the couple's days a bleak, daunting existence, but their nights seem somewhat glamorous and dryly spirited. Deakins perfectly encapsulates Sid and Nancy's relationship in one single ironic but ultimately gorgeous shot of the two kissing in a dirty, dingy alley with dumpsters while garbage rains down all around them. The image is one of a doomed love affair in a world of filth. They are aware of this reality and maybe even know there's little hope of a worthwhile future. But in the end, they simply don't care because as long as they are together, they will skip along amongst the rubbish, hand in hand. Mostly, while on a high, of course, but still.
It must be said, 'Sid and Nancy' is a downright dark and dim film about the short life of a punk icon trapped in a downward spiral, but beneath that, it is a unique and surprisingly heartbreaking tale of tragic romance. Over the decades, Alex Cox's biopic drama has grown into a cult classic which captures the punk-rock movement like few movies ever had — before or since.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
20th Century Fox and MGM Home Entertainment bring 'Sid and Nancy' to Blu-ray on a Region Free, BD50 disc inside a blue eco-case. At startup, the disc goes straight to the film without a main menu screen, only a pop-up menu.
Celebrating its 25th anniversary, 'Sid and Nancy' crashes the party with a surprisingly good-looking 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode that easily surpasses previous versions. Possibly remastered specially for this Blu-ray edition, the high-def transfer shows excellent resolution levels for a majority of the presentation.
A few scenes are not quite as strong as the rest and likely age-related, yet viewers can definitely appreciate Roger Deakins's photography much more than ever before. The image is awash in a thin layer of grain that's consistent and very film-like. Colors are accurately rendered with bright, bold primaries throughout. Contrast is also even and well-balanced with crisp whites and great visibility of background info. Blacks are true and deep with admirable shadow delineation, except where intentional like several sequences inside the couple's room at the Chelsea Hotel. Overall, object detailing is much better than the film has any right to, exposing fine textures and lines on clothing, interiors and the various architectural designs.
All in all, 'Sid and Nancy' puts on a first-rate show in high-definition video.
The audio is also a marked improvement over its lossy counterparts, yet there's not much which makes standout and comes with a few minor protests.
The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack arrives with some really great moments, but they are few and far between, a result of the stereo recording than an issue with the codec. The original music from Pray for Rain, The Pogues and Joel Strummer receives the most benefit, spreading across the soundstage with ease and fidelity. The few more active sequences, like inside nightclubs and at live concerts, occupy the fronts with various atmospherics and create a satisfyingly wide imaging. There's little range in the upper frequencies, which is rather disappointing but at least the lossless mix is clean and stable from beginning to end. Low bass, too, is a bit lacking but offers some depth and vigor to the appropriate scenes. Dialogue reproduction seems the most worrisome as there are several times when conversations are difficult to hear. Yet, the high-rez is enjoyable overall.
Previous home video releases of 'Sid and Nancy' have been a disappointment for fans in terms of special features. The only DVD to include anything worthwhile was from The Criterion Collection. Dubbed the Collector's Edition, MGM and Fox continue the trend by porting over the same special features as before.
'Sid and Nancy' fictionalizes the true story of the pathetically tragic love affair of The Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious and his American groupie Nancy Spungen. With utterly fantastic performances by Gary Oldman and Chloe Webb and photographed with shocking beauty by the highly-talented Roger Deakins, Alex Cox's biopic drama is a sad, unfortunate tale of two terribly self-destructive individuals who in spite of the hell and rubbish they created for themselves, they loved each other unconditionally to the very end. The Blu-ray from Fox/MGM offers the best video and audio presentation of the film and even includes a couple of exclusive supplements to sweeten the deal. Fans of the film, the band, and followers of music history in general will definitely want to pick this up.