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Sid and Nancy (1986)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 12/27/2011
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/8/2012
In the mid-to-late 80s, went it came to filmgoing, my primary focus was on independent horror movies. Yes, I was a rabid horror fan. (Although, I was a contradiction in terms, as I didn't look the part, but it was all Fangoria and Evil Dead going on inside.) Because of this, there are several popular or important non-horror movies from that era which I didn't see, and haven't seen to this day. (I'll be revisiting this idea in another review in the next few days.) One such film is Sid and Nancy. While this clearly fell outside of the mainstream, it was a film which received a lot of press and has become a cult favorite.
Sid and Nancy is a rock and roll biopic. Opening in London in the late 70s, we meet the infamous punk band, The Sex Pistols. Bass player Sid Vicious (Gary Oldman) spends most of his time palling around with singer Johnny Rotten (Andrew Schofield). (Guitarist Steve Jones (Tony London) and drummer Paul Cook (Perry Benson) appear briefly.) They go to pubs and clubs, often causing trouble. Sid meets a woman named Nancy Spungen (Chloe Webb) and they do heroin together. Nancy becomes Sid's girlfriend and they are inseparable. However, they spend most of their time shooting up and fighting. When the band goes on tour in the United States, Nancy is left behind, but turmoil in the band cuts the tour short and the two are soon reunited in New York City. As Nancy tries to help Sid get a solo career off the ground, the two continue to focus on drug use and their lives spiral out of control.
Despite the fact that I hadn't seen Sid and Nancy, I knew enough about The Sex Pistols to quickly ascertain that this movie isn't meant to be a documentary. Several facts are glossed over or ignored. The movie starts with Vicious already a member of the band, and there's no mention of the fact that he'd replaced original bassist Glen Matlock. By this time in history, the band's one true studio album had been released (Vicious did not play on this record), yet there's a strong sense that they are still a struggling, unknown group. This concept is then juxtaposed with a rather large concert put on by the band on a boat, which smacks of rock and roll excess. We get very little idea of what Sid was like pre-Nancy, as he meets her quite quickly, and it's implied that she introduced him to hard drugs, but the movie never comes out and says this. One in New York, we see Nancy negotiate a deal from three gigs, but it's very vague as to how they can pay for their hotel room and drugs.
Clearly, Sid and Nancy was never meant to be a word-for-word account of the history of The Sex Pistols. Instead, this is a tragic love story which focuses on two doomed and damaged people. By rights, the story shouldn't be about Vicious, as it was Rotten and Jones who were the driving musical force behind the band (the movie does make it clear that Vicious could barely play the bass), but he was the most outrageous and visible member.
Typically, stories like this focus on a great talent who threw away their gift to excess. That's not the case with Sid and Nancy as, again, the movie never tries to paint vicious as a great, or even mildly skilled, musician. Instead, the primary gaze of the film falls on the turbulent relationship between Vicious and Spungen. This goes far beyond being a cautionary tale, as we watch the two quickly reach a point where their whole world was about drugs. With The Sex Pistols, Vicious had a chance to be a huge star, but he threw it all away for his devotion to Nancy and drugs. This becomes very hard to watch as Nancy is an abrasive, yet terribly insecure person and their lives descend into squalor.
Is Sid and Nancy a good movie? If you're looking for a lesson on The Sex Pistols, then the answer is no. But, again, that's not it's purpose. It does succeed in painting a very vivid picture of how drugs can destroy someone's life, even someone who has a lot to live for. The movie is dark and depressing, and even though most of us can't understand why the duo behaves as they do, Director Alex Cox manages to draw us into the movie and have an emotional reaction to their story. The movie fails to meet our expectations and yet, is still shocking. How's that for punk?
Sid and Nancy had me on pins and needles when the kitten entered the scene on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 37 Mbps. Being a 25 year old movie, the transfer looks as one would expect. The image is sharp and clear for the most part, although some shots do show grain. The one major flaw to the image is that it is flat when compared to other Blu-ray Discs. There's not much depth to the image, and this robs it of its crispness. The colors do look go, most notably reds and oranges. The picture can get a little dark at times. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The dynamic range is way off on this track. The rock music in the film is much louder than the dialogue. Was this intentional to make the music feel more "in your face"? If so, this was a bad move, as the dialogue is a bit muddy to begin with. Thus, I found myself constantly adjusting the volume. That aside, we don't get many notable audio effects here. I detected a few stray sounds coming from the front and rear channels which had managed to separate themselves from the center, but for the most part, the track is lackluster.
The Sid and Nancy Blu-ray Disc contains three extras. "For the Love of Punk" (15 minutes) explores the movie, how it portrayed the story, and how it was received. Through comments from critics like Owen Gleiberman, music insiders like Kurt Loder, and contemporaries of The Sex Pistols, we hear about a little about the making of the film, but the piece concentrates more on Oldman and Webb's performances and how the film captured the feel of the time. "Junk Love" (15 minutes) offers more comments from those who knew Vicious and Spungen, as it goes into detail about who they really were and what their lives were like. There are some nice details here which were not included in the movie. The odd thing about these two featurettes, both of which dwell on the real-life story, is that it's not until the end of "Junk Love" that we see a picture of the real Vicious and Spungen. Otherwise, every photo is of Oldman and Webb. The final extra is the THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film.
Review Copyright 2012 by Mike Long