Released by: MGM
Released on: December 27, 2011.
Director: Alex Cox
Cast: Gary Oldman, Chloe Webb, Andrew Scofield
Year: 1986 Purchase From Amazon
Alex Cox’s second feature film, made after the success of 1984’s Repo Man, was 1986’s Sid And Nancy in which Gary Oldman played Sid Vicious, second (and final) bass player for The Sex Pistols. The film details his induction into the band and some of the turmoil that ensued but focuses more on his self destructive relationship with his insane girlfriend, Nancy Spungen, played with incredibly annoying authenticity by Chloe Webb. As the two meet and fall in love, Nancy’s drug addiction starts to quickly rub off on Sid, himself a naïve and rather dimwitted fellow, which inevitably leads to a lackluster solo career when the Pistols split and then, shortly after, Sid’s arrest for Nancy’s murder in the Hotel Chelsea in lower Manhattan.
Cox directs the film with a good sense of humor as evidenced in scenes like the one where a more mainstream musician tries to sell Johnny Rotton (Andrew Scofield) on a ‘punk song’ he’s just written about wanting a job, but plays things pretty straight in terms of its depiction of substance abuse and destructive relationships. At the same time, it also makes it very clear that Sid and Nancy did love one another very much, even if at times it can be difficult for us to see that through all the intravenous drug use and alcohol abuse.
Set to a great soundtrack of mid-eighties bands like Pray For Rain, The Pogues, Joe Strummer and the Circle Jerks, among others, the film does a decent job of recreating iconic moments from the Sex Pistols’ history, such as their Coronation Day festival boat performance and their appearance on the Bill Grundy show but it can be tough for those with an affinity for the band to accept Scofield as Rotten (a role Cox originally wanted Tim Roth for). Aside from that, the film is well cast. Webb brings Spungen’s clingy, whiney and obnoxious persona to life. Ironically (considering what she’d become in the nineties), Courtney Love originally auditioned for the part but didn’t get it – she can be spotted in a brief supporting role as one of Nancy’s friends. while Oldman is almost perfect as Sid, nailing not only the tone of his voice but especially his lanky, awkward body language. Oldman is the film’s true saving grace, his performance here taking home the Evening Standard British Film Award for Most Promising Newcomer. Oldman, who has gone on to become quite the chameleon in terms of his acting ability, had worked mostly in television before Cox cast him in the film. In order to ‘become Sid’ he had to lost weight but went so far with it that he actually wound up in the hospital. Special mention also needs to be made of the mighty Edward Tudorpole, the mad genius behind Tenpole Tudor and the man who was at one time thought to be Rotten’s replacement as singer in The Sex Pistols. He has an all too brief cameo as a hotel clerk in the film.
Maybe not so surprisingly, John Lydon, shedding his Rotton persona, would trash the film when it debuted, noting that it was a fairy tale version of the real events – while it’s hard to say how accurate that is not having been there, you can see why he’d make that comparison given just how much Cox plays up the romantic angel, particularly in the film’s finale.
Sid And Nancy arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of MGM in an AVC encoded 1.85.1 widescreen 1080p high definition transfer that generally looks pretty good. Some shots look soft, they always have and always will as they were shot that way but those exceptions not withstanding detail is quite a bit improved over previous DVD releases as is color reproduction. There are no problems with compression artifacts or heavy edge enhancement nor is there any evidence of noise reduction to note, resulting in a nice film-like presentation, complete with some nice grain and a few specks here and there. Heavy print damage is never an issue, black levels look good, skin tones appear natural and realistic – yeah, this movie looks pretty good in high definition.
The only audio option provided is an English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix, with optional subtitles offered up in English only. Again, we notice a nice improvement over the DVD, especially in terms of how well the soundtrack plays here. The music has a lot more punch and resonance to it without ever suffering from reverb or echo, while the levels stay balanced and the dialogue clear.
None of the extras from the long out of print Criterion Collection DVD release or the UK special edition release have been ported over, sadly, but MGM does supply two moderately interesting documentaries, the first of which is the sixteen minute For The Love Of Punk which allows various commentators and experts to talk about the birth of punk rock and the second of which is the fifteen minute Junk Love in which many of those same commentators discuss the relationship that existed between the real Sid and Nancy. The two featurettes are very similar in nature and probably could have been better edited into one piece, but they’re interesting enough to watch once. Aside from that, the original theatrical trailer is included as are menus and chapter stops.
The Final Word:
It’s a shame that MGM couldn’t do more with the extras (a commentary from Cox would have been a great addition) but otherwise this is a very solid release. The video looks very good and the audio definitely beats what DVD could offer. As to the movie itself? It’s not a perfect film but it holds up well as a rather ridiculous romance of sorts set against the seedy backdrop of the early punk scene. Cox gets more right than wrong, but it’s Oldman’s performance here that really makes the movie work and which earns the film a recommendation.
Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!