Shortly after Repo Man (which still has no Blu-Ray release scheduled for North America), Alex Cox followed up his cult classic with a biopic about Sid Vicious. Instead of the sensationalism of the punk scene or how influential the Sex Pistols were to punk, Cox decided to focus on Vicious and his junkie girlfriend Nancy, an American who was visiting London at the time they met, and their descent in a drug induced downward spiral towards the end of their short lives.
Sid Vicious (played amazingly by Gary Oldman) is the bassist for the British punk band Sex Pistols who meets American groupie/junkie/drifter Nancy Spungen (Chloe Webb). While initially blowing her off, something in him takes an interest to her and once Sid and Nancy team up and start shooting up heroin together, they begin to rely on and confide on each other. What follows is a strange romance that is fueled not only by drugs but by Nancy’s admiration towards Sid and his punk rock fame. Their companionship is bittersweet with scenes where Sid will do anything to please Nancy with a simple kiss on her foot to Nancy calling her mother to send some money so they can get some drugs.
What Alex Cox does with the film is something unique. While you have those moments of romance, their descent into drug addiction seems to consume any trace of that romance by trying to eradicate it from your memory. Cox could have taken the easy road by making the film more of a documentation of the band that Sid was infamous of being in but there is a professional level of respect to tell Sid & Nancy’s story. The reason I mention the word “professional” is because Cox is and always has been a punk to the film industry – this is later discussed in the special features as well. With the film starting with the death of Nancy and a very sobering shot of Sid sitting on the bed that makes you wonder how it would get to this point. By beginning with the end of the story of the couple, we become more intrigued as when their story started, they seemed like such an unlikely couple.
The film’s highlight is Gary Oldman’s performance as Sid Vicious. His transformation into Vicious’ persona is flawless and relatable not to mention almost being infectious. Chloe Webb’s Nancy could easily be dismissed due to the character of Nancy, who is not really a likeable character. Nancy is a junkie who will do anything for her fix. Through the progression of the film you realize that she starts to care for Sid as much as she cares for her heroin. She has an addictive nature that ultimately results in her demise.
The film was shot in a gritty film stock so it isn’t the prettiest film you will see on Blu-Ray. However, the transfer looks pretty clean and it looks like cinematographer Roger Deakins’ color palette for the film seems pretty consistent throughout the film. There are a couple of scenes, mainly the Hotel Chelsea scenes, that seem like they could have been a bit more lighter and this could be due to high contrast, but this only happens on a few scenes so I tend to believe it might of been how these scenes were photographed. While the video is definitely an improvement over the previous Criterion Collection release, and not just because of Blu-ray format being able to hold information, the colors seem to be more true.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack highlights the musical contributions to the film as the dialogue is pretty much focused towards the front. The clarity in the soundtrack sounds great.
This is where MGM/20th Century Fox kind of misses the mark. Much like the Straw Dogs release, the supplementary materials from the previous Criterion DVD release of Sid & Nancy are pushed off the wayside. Sure, this is probably because MGM/20th Century Fox couldn’t get the rights to these features but they called this release “Sid & Nancy: Collector’s Edition” yet there is nothing collectible about it. With two talking head featurettes and a Theatrical Trailer in HD, this is the most disappointing thing of the release.
While the supplemental features are definitely lacking, for fans of the film this is an improvement with the actual film presentation. Sid & Nancy is a integral film of the 80′s that is only heightened by Oldman’s performance. As a biopic, the film is definitely more of a dramatization than a true documentation of events but that doesn’t mean that the film doesn’t accomplish what it sets out to do.