DVD Movie Guide @ dvdmg.com
Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main


Alex Cox
Gary Oldman, Chloe Webb, Drew Schofield
Writing Credits:
Alex Cox, Abbe Wool

Sex Pistols bass player Sid Vicious meets Nancy Spungen and embarks on a doomed love affair.

Box Office:
$4 million.
Domestic Gross

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English PCM Stereo
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 113 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 8/22/2017

• Audio Commentary with Actors Gary Oldman and Chloe Webb, screenwriter Abbe Wool, “cultural historian” Greil Marcus, filmmakers Julien Temple and Lech Kowalski, and musician Eliot Kidd
• Audio Commentary with Director Alex Cox and Actor Andrew Schofield
• “England’s Glory” Documentary
• Interview with Director Alex Cox
• “Sad Vacation” Documentary Excerpts
DOA Excerpts
• 1978 Sid Vicious Interview
• “The Films and the Fury” Interview
London Weekend Show Excerpt
• Trailer
• Booklet


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Sid & Nancy: Criterion Collection [Blu-Ray] (1986)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 30, 2017)

When a film documents recent events, one problem stems from the familiarity of the viewers, especially when the depiction covers a famous topic. Many more people will grant you artistic license when you tell a story about Mozart than when you show the Beatles because too many of the viewers lived through the events and will have an innate sense of accuracy.

Sometimes the facts can be correct but the tone is wrong, and that’s kind of how I felt about 1986’s Sid & Nancy, a film that depicts the seedy love story between American waste-oid Nancy Spungen (Chloe Webb) and talentless British rock star Sid Vicious (Gary Oldman).

Although he remains arguably the band’s most famous member, Vicious had almost nothing to do with the music of the Sex Pistols. Predecessor bassist Glen Matlock, was really the main creative force in the group, and he was much of the reason for their success with tunes like “Anarchy in the UK” and “God Save the Queen”.

Matlock got the boot because of alleged bourgeois tendencies, and singer Johnny Rotten indignantly spat that he wanted to turn the band into the Beatles. Vicious came on as Matlock’s replacement although he didn’t know how to play the bass at the time.

Matlock’s departure eventually would have killed the band since he was the creative force. Granted, the group somehow produced what it arguably their best song - “Holidays in the Sun” - after he left, but it seems unlikely much else of significance would have developed.

In any case, this was a band with a shelf life, though not for the usual reasons. Generally it’s teen-oriented groups like Backstreet Boys who feel the ticking of the clock, as rock bands can go on for much longer. However, the Pistols embodied the crash and burn mentality of punk, so they had to die for the movement to make any sense.

Sid tries to pin the group’s demise on Vicious’ escalating drug habit, and that may well relate to the immediate cause. However, it’s too neat a turn to be real, and the film ignores the general chaos that surrounded the group.

The movie makes it appear as though the other members were organized and efficient but that damned loser Sid ruined all of their pop-chart plans! The story even makes Rotten look like an artsy perfectionist. That’s not even remotely accurate, and this tone - however will it fits the movie’s storyline - keeps me from buying into the tale.

Actually, there’s a lot about Sid that makes it next to impossible for me to suspend disbelief. The reproductions of the Pistols’ songs don’t come terribly close to the originals.

Andrew Schofield’s attempt to emulate Rotten seems worst of the bunch, as he gets some of the technique correct but never reasonably replicates the original. The music comes closer but still leaves me detached, even though the real Matlock performed on the film’s tunes.

The film alternates between telling us how untalented Vicious was (which is true) and also sending the message that he could have been a big rock star on his own (patently false). Vicious had a few moments of ironic glory as a solo artist due to his punk rendition of “My Way” but there was literally no chance whatsoever he could have done anything else in the business.

The movie depicts Nancy’s continued insistence that he has what it takes to be a star, and the story often seems to believe her. The tone appears to demonstrate that only some narrow-minded jerks kept him from reaching his potential.

I’ve looked over other reviews of Sid that complain about the movie’s general tone of darkness and decay. However, I think the events rarely seem dismal and unsettling enough.

There’s a mood about the time that should come through in the film but it never does, and that’s why the picture always feels like a cheap replication of the period. Director Alex Cox clearly had an affection for the time, but somehow he completely misses the boat in his depiction of the era. It’s hard for me to pinpoint the flaws, but I just thought that the movie feels wrong.

The same goes for the much-lauded acting of leads Oldman and Webb. This was Gary’s first notable role, and while he seems to inhabit Sid to a certain degree, I never really buy him in the part.

Frankly, Oldman’s innate intelligence comes through too much of the time. Sid was a moron - a complete, total moron at that - and Oldman simply appears too bright, sensitive and insightful to play Vicious. There’s too much going on in his head.

As for Webb, she offers a terribly grating and screechy performance as Nancy. I had more trouble judging the accuracy of her portrayal, but it feels too broad.

Actually, Spungen reminds me of Tracey Ullman’s annoying comic turn in Woody Allen’s Small Time Crooks in that the actress adopts the most nasal and whiny of American accents. As we see in this disc’s extras, the real Nancy showed some of these tendencies, but Webb appears to ratchet Nancy’s annoying traits to “11” and comes across as a cartoon.

I guess that remains my biggest complaint about Sid & Nancy: it never feels real. The movie seems to want to get the era correct but it never can do so.

A few moments come across as vivid and accurate, but too much of the film seems muddled and ineffective. Sid scores points for its attempts to take on a difficult and unpleasant subject while it renders the material in a fairly graphic manner, but I ultimately think the movie doesn’t live up to its potential.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus B+

Sid & Nancy appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. This was a much more attractive than expected presentation.

Sharpness seemed consistently good. Interiors could look a smidgen soft, but those were the only minor examples of that. Overall definition seemed concise and distinctive.

No instances of jaggies or moiré effects appeared, and I saw no signs of edge haloes. In terms of print flaws, I noticed no specks, marks or other issues.

Despite the dank subject matter and generally decaying tone of punk, the film offered a lot of bright and vibrant hues. From dyed hair to lots of different outfits, the colors looked clear and vivid throughout the movie.

Black levels also seemed deep and rich, and shadow detail was clear and appropriately opaque. Sid and Nancy wasn’t a demonstration-level image, but it seemed much better than I expected.

Also surprisingly good was the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack. The soundfield seemed essentially monaural during the early parts of the movie but it soon began to expand.

Music spread nicely to the side speakers and also often blasted from the rears. During club scenes, the tunes used the room effectively and realistically.

Other scenes conveyed appropriate and mildly engrossing ambiance, and audio panned between channels cleanly. It’s not a rock-‘em, sock-‘em affair that you’ll use to impress friends, but I found the soundfield to be nicely engaging.

Audio quality seemed similarly solid. Some of the dialogue was difficult to understand, but that resulted from thick English accents and had nothing to do with the recording. Otherwise, speech seemed reasonably natural and warm and showed no signs of edginess.

Effects appeared generally clear and accurate, and at times they boasted some nice depth, such as during a loud thunderstorm. Music seemed consistently crisp and deep, with solid dynamics and good accuracy. For a movie from 1986, the soundtrack seemed very positive.

How did this 2017 Criterion Blu-Ray compare with the MGM Blu-ray from 2011? Audio seemed identical, though the Criterion disc added the film’s original stereo mix as well, which offered a nice bonus.

As for the visuals, the two looked pretty similar, as the MGM disc fared well. The Criterion appeared a bit superior, though, as it was a little cleaner. Though not a great upgrade, the 2017 disc became the preferred version.

The Criterion Blu-ray offers a mix of extras, and we get two separate audio commentaries. From 1994, the first track features actors Gary Oldman and Chloe Webb, screenwriter Abbe Wool, “cultural historian” Greil Marcus, filmmakers Julien Temple and Lech Kowalski, and musician Eliot Kidd.

As is typical of Criterion commentaries, all of the participants were recorded separately and their remarks were later edited together. Some don’t care for this approach, but I like it because it ensures little dead space and it means that the quality of the statements generally stays high.

We hear a great deal of solid information about this track that details aspects of the era depicted - including lots of flaws - plus what the performers intended. I especially enjoyed the remarks from Oldman, as he adds lots of good nuggets about his methods.

Marcus also adds a great deal of historical information that works well, and Temple’s often-snotty comments about how wrong the film got things is consistently amusing. It’s a very solid track that added to my enjoyment of the film.

For the second commentary, we get a 2001 chat with director Alex Cox and actor Andrew Schofield. Both sit together for a running, screen-specific look at story/character areas, cast and performances, sets and locations, music, visual design, photography and related areas.

Though both Cox and Schofield interact well and present lively personalities, they don’t give us a great look at the film. They occasionally throw out useful nuggets about the movie, but in the end, their remarks fail to add up to much. This becomes an enjoyable but not especially educational chat.

Next we find England’s Glory, a 30-minute, 22-second documentary shot during the making of Sid and Nancy. It’s tremendously incoherent but still very interesting, mainly because it consists almost totally of impromptu material from the set. It’s a lot of entertaining nonsense that won’t add much to your understanding of the film’s creation but you’ll enjoy it nonetheless.

More documentary footage appears in DOA: A Right of Passage, a 10-minute, eight-second program that shows material shot during the Pistols’ 1978 US tour. This piece offers some of the only shots of the real Nancy that can be found on the disc, which is what makes it especially valuable.

Although we only see a few glimpses of Nancy, they contribute to my feeling that Webb overplayes her obnoxiousness; while Nancy clearly could be quite shrill, she doesn’t seem to have been so consistently annoying as the person played by Webb.

Comparisons between real-Sid and Oldman-Sid are more difficult to make because the real guy slept through most of the filming. In any case, “DOA” offers a good look at the genuine articles.

A very cool addition to the disc comes under the category The Filth and the Fury. Also the name of a Julien Temple Pistols documentary, this piece actually shows the band’s pre-Sid incarnation in their infamous two-minute, 55-second appearance on Bill Grundy’s TV show.

Their behavior stirred up a huge controversy at the time, though it’s hard to understand why in this day and age: basically they utter a few profane words and that’s about it. Still, it’s great to have this snippet on the disc.

Note that during “England’s Glory” and the Bill Grundy piece, the actual Pistols’ music couldn’t appear due to rights questions. Instead, Criterion take the subversive route and overdub calliope music, of all things. Oddly, it fits!

Next, we find an odd but compelling extra: a phone conversation between Sid and photographer Roberta Bayley. Sid fell into a drug-induced coma after a plane flight and was hospitalized; the discussion takes place while he was there.

This 13-minute, eight-econd chat is largely banal, as Bayley tells Sid how bad the weather is, but there’s enough fascinating reality to make the piece worth a listen. Sid comes across as only semi-coherent, but considering his state at the time, that’s not too bad, especially since I doubt Sid ever rose above a level of marginal lucidity.

The talk becomes rather sad and touching at times when Sid talks about his inability to kick drugs. Ultimately, it’s a compelling piece of historical material.

New to the 2017 disc, we get a 2016 interview with Alex Cox. This chat goes for 24 minutes, two seconds and includes Cox’s thoughts about his career, how he got involved in Sid, research and his approach to the material, music, cast, and the flick’s reception. Inevitably, some of this repeats from Cox’s commentary, but he still delivers a tight, informative piece.

Sad Vacation: The Last Days of Sid and Nancy presents excerpts from Danny Garcia’s documentary of that title. The snippets fill 14 minutes, 27 seconds and feature actors Ned Van Zandt and Victor Colicchio, musicians Kenny “Stinker” Gordon, Sylvain Sylvain, Donna Destri and Howie Pyro, photographers Roberta Bayley and Bob Gruen, roadie Steve “Roadent” Conolly, artist Neon Leon, Nancy’s friend Phyllis Stein, writers John Holmstrome and Den Browne and author Brett Dunford.

“Vacation” presents a quick synopsis of the subjects one would find in the full documentary. Some interesting material emerges, but this feels like a teaser for the longer program.

In addition to the film’s trailer, the package concludes with a booklet. It contains an essay from Jon Savage as well as materials gathered by Alex Cox. It fleshes out the set in a positive manner.

Sid & Nancy deliver a fairly interesting film, but I must admit it leaves me a bit cold. The movie seems too detached from the reality of the situation for me to take it as seriously as I should. The Blu-ray offers very good picture and audio as well as a strong collection of supplements. The Criterion release becomes the best version of the film to date.

To rate this film, visit the prior review of SID & NANCY

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main