For someone who understands the punk rock world so well, Alex Cox is very quick to tear the nostalgia shades off of the viewers to depict a meeting of two lovers that was so intense it resulted in an unfortunate murder. “Sid and Nancy” are often romanticized by music lovers even to this day, but Alex Cox who brought us the masterpiece “Repo Man,” looks behind the gloss, picturing two unbearable, but real individuals. Director Cox paints a brilliant picture of two people spiraling in to oblivion, with a remarkable drama that’s less a biopic and more a chronicle of two doomed lovers. Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen are a lot to drink in. From the moment we meet them, they’re loud, they’re parasitic and disgusting, but they form a relationship where they understand each other. In many ways they decided that they need each other to survive.
They’d weather the storm of the world together until the very disastrous end. One of the more rattling but compelling scenes in “Sid and Nancy” involves the Sex Pistols staging a concert on a yacht which is interrupted by the coast guard. While everyone are being chased around and lugged in to vans, Sid and Nancy quietly brush through the crowds, content in their own bubble. Despite the inevitable violence that ensued, Sid and Nancy’s relationship is fascinating but ugly. We watch two people steer in to brick walls constantly, as they try to earn their ways in their world through musical stardom. Nancy is a groupie who finds some sense of a nurturing instinct toward Sid. Sid is a man who is used to playing background and wants to pursue his own music.
Once Nancy introduces Sid to drug use, though, any and all hopes of Sid ever breaking out of the Sex Pistols shadows are shattered and he remains his own worst enemy. Cox’s direction is raw, his direction engrossing, and he manages to keep up well with the excellent turns by Chloe Webb and Gary Oldman. Webb in particular throws herself in to the character of Nancy, a woman who is enamored with rock and roll who bases her mannerisms based on her favorite musicians. She’s an emotional train wreck with humongous issues with her own parents, and she’s desperate to grasp on to hope that Sid and she will be able to claim some sense of normalcy. Granted, they can escape the slums of London, and their own merciless addiction to drugs.
Cox allows Webb to unleash her performance, resulting in Nancy consistently shrieking and bellowing at emotional pitches that offer insight in to her mental imbalance more than exposition. Nancy would be good for Sid, if they weren’t constantly being so self-defeating. “Sid and Nancy” tastefully dodges the exploitative moment where Nancy is stabbed to death, and focuses on a hazy night to where the pair swore a suicide pact, but were too strung out to stand. Cox begins and ends the narrative on Sid Vicious awaking to his lover lying in a pool of blood, and closes on him catching a taxi with her to nowhere, as her spirit welcomes him with open arms. To Sid no one else mattered but Nancy, right until the very bleak end.
The Criterion release comes packed to the nines with the original theatrical trailer, and “England’s Glory,” a half hour archival documentary produced by Martin Turner in 1987. It features some footage from the film shoot, to interviews with the cast and crew. In a twenty four minute interview with Alex Cox filmed in 2016, the polarizing director discusses his career, shooting the film, and its reception in the US and the UK. “Sad Vacation” is fifteen minute excerpt showcase for Danny Garcia’s new documentary “Sad Vacation: The Last Days of Sid and Nancy,” with comments from actor Victor Colicchio, photographer Bob Gruen, actor Ned Van Zandt, author Brett Dunford, and Kenny “Stinker” Gordon (Pure Hell), respectively. “D.O.A.: A Right of Passage” is an eleven minute clip series featuring the real Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen.
“Sid Vicious, 1978” is a fourteen minute phone interview with Sid Vicious after he fell in to a drug induced coma on a plane from London to New York. “The Filth and the Fury!” is an episode of the British program that helped establish the Sex Pistols’ reputation. “The London Weekend Show” is a fourteen minute series of excerpts from the television series with exploration of punk rock and the fashion of punk in London. There are also clips of interviews with the Sex Pisols and punk rock fans. There are two exhaustive audio commentaries. The first features recorded interviews with screenwriter Abbe Wool, actors Gary Oldman and Choe Webb, cultural critic Greil Marcus, filmmakers Julien Temple and Lech Kowalski, and musician Eliot Kidd. The majority of the information and discussion is about the era of punk rock and the Sex Pistols, the punk movement, Sid’s persona and public image.
The commentary, which was recorded in 1994 features twenty four chapters. The second audio commentary features director and cowriter Alex Cox and actor Andrew Schofield, who plays Johnny Rotten. The pair of men discusses shooting the film, various sequences, as well as some funny observations about filming. The commentary which was recorded in 2001 garners twenty four chapters. Finally for the collectors, there’s an 18 page illustrated booklet with Jon Savage’s essay “The Horrible Purity of Immortality,” and “On Sid and Nancy and Sid & Nancy.”