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MGM Studios DVD presents
Sid and Nancy (1986)

Nancy: She wouldn't give us any money. She said we'd just use it to buy drugs.
Sid: Well, we would.

- Chloe Webb, Gary Oldman

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: December 14, 2000

Stars: Gary Oldman, Chloe Webb
Other Stars: David Hayman, Debby Bishop
Director: Alex Cox

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: R for (language, drug use, and sexual situations)
Run Time: 01h:51m:11s
Release Date: December 19, 2000
UPC: 027616855602
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- B-B+B D-

DVD Review

Rock biopics seem to be pretty fertile ground for filmmakers. There's Oliver Stone's The Doors. Brian Gibson's What's Love Got to Do With It. Mark Rydell's The Rose. Umm - VH1's The Monkees. Anyway, you see my point. Rock stars fascinate us because they hold a mythic, revered position in our culture. Music plays a vital part of our identities, especially during the teenage years, and rock stars thus directly impact our live, whether they know it or not. Their trials, triumphs, and breakdowns transform into the music that helps us get through our own problems. Into this genre comes Sid and Nancy, the award-winning film by Alex Cox that tries to make sense of one of rock's most unusual stories—the doomed romance of Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen.

Sid, guitarist in the punk band The Sex Pistols, has it all. He is a rock god, with all the sex, drugs, and fame he can handle. Of course, you can't live a life like that without consequences, and Sid is by far the most hard-living of his bandmates. He can barely play a coherent show, and he argues and fights with anyone who gets in his way, be he fan, bandmember, or manager. Into this life wanders Nancy. Nancy is much like Sid: she has little self-control, a problem relating to people, and an addiction to any drug that happens to be lying around. It is like the two were made for each other. Their problems match up; their psychoses compliment each other. They become constant companions, even after Sid is kicked out of the band. The film follows their downward spiral together, attempting to capture their fractured love for one another as realistically as possible.

Gary Oldman does some great work as Sid Vicious. I am not the biggest fan of The Sex Pistols, but I am familiar with their work, and like Val Kilmer's interpretation of Jim Morrison in The Doors, when I see Oldman as Sid, I find I have trouble picturing the real Sid. He doesn't seem to be performing; he seems to be channeling. Chloe Webb's work as Nancy is admirable as well, but I wasn't quite as impressed with her as I was with Oldman. She is fine in the softer scenes, but any scenes that had any kind of conflict just seemed way over the top. I got so tired of hearing her screeching "Sid!" I considered reaching for the mute button any time it seemed like something upsetting was going to happen. Supporting performances are all decent, but Sid and Nancy are the heart of the film, and no one else really matters.

Director Alex Cox has infused the film with an arresting visual style. There are a number of very memorable sequences, and all are a result of Cox's direction. For example, Sid's performance of My Way, already surreal and dreamlike, becomes an all-out trip when he attacks the audience, killing them in a stylized bloodbath. I also can't seem to forget the scene with Sid and Nancy kissing in the alley as garbage rains in all around them. The visual metaphor about the nature of their relationship is a striking one.

Despite the acting and directing, however, the film didn't totally work for me. The screenplay, co-written by Alex Cox, seemed to rush, skipping large portions of Sid and Nancy's relationship. I never bought that they were in love. Sid just seemed to be annoyed by Nancy all the time. I think if we'd been allowed to see the two fall for each other, it would've made more sense. Instead we go from Nancy not being able to tell Sid from singer Johnny Rotten to being Sid's almost constant companion. While their breakdown was handled effectively, I don't think that the final, climactic, and tragic scene was dealt with very well at all, despite Webb's best work in the film.

Sid and Nancy attempts to show us what was going on inside of one of the most tragic relationships in rock history. What drew these two people together? Why did they stay together, despite all the pain they caused each other? In the end, Sid and Nancy provides no easy answers, but maybe there aren't any. After all, who knows what makes you fall in love?

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyesno

Image Transfer Review: MGM has provided a new anamorphic transfer for this edition of Sid and Nancy. I haven't seen the earlier version from Criterion, so I am unable to compare the two, but I have to say that I can't imagine the Criterion transfer being much better. Black level is a bit spotty, with some scenes looking excellent and others a bit faded, but it isn't much of an issue. Colors are strong and vibrant. Fine detail is generally ok, and the image avoids looking to soft most of the time.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: The audio mix on Sid and Nancy is good as well, surprising considering its low budget. Most everything is anchored in the front soundstage, with dialogue always sounding clear and natural. At times sound effects sound a bit harsh (glass breaking, ect.), but it isn't too distracting. The surrounds add some nice atmosphere to crowd or club scenes, and the full soundstage is used to good effect during the musical performances.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 26 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in Spanish, French with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: This movie was originally part of the Criterion Collection. That release featured some nice supplements, including a commentary from director Alex Cox. Sadly, Criterion tends to be very protective of their supplements, and MGM doesn't seem to eager to pay to license stuff anyway. The point is, all we get on this release is the theatrical trailer. Poopy.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

Sid and Nancy has its fans, but I can't claim to be one of them. I can definitely see the appeal, and director Alex Cox has a real visual style, but I found the script too scattershot to really let me connect with these characters. MGM has provided a very good anamorphic transfer, but sadly all supplements from the out-of-print Criterion version are missing from this release. Fans of the film should keep that disc for the extras and buy this one for the transfer.


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