Sid & Nancy

Writer/director Alex Cox wrote a script for a fictional rockumentary about highly original and articulate Johnny Rotten, writer/lead singer of The Sex Pistols. It might have been an extremely rewarding movie. Instead, he made Sid & Nancy, which focuses on two talentless, star-crossed, star-struck dope heads. Yet the film manages to capture the era’s excitement, disrespectful mockery, and aggressive antisocial attacks on mainstream consumer beliefs. Roger Deakins’ moody half-lighting captures all the gritty dirtiness, scum-covered filth, and squalor of 1970s London and New York with plentiful detail in shadows and differentiation in the bricks Sid bashes his head against. There are deep blacks in leathers, spiky hair, and sunglasses, and rich tones in Nancy’s throw pillows, Rotten’s orange hair and multi-colored mohair pullovers, and Union Jacks. Natural skintones reveal wan faces and track-marked arms.

A 5.1-channel remix throws atmospherics in the surrounds and immerses you in the score, which works for the incidental music but not for the wonderfully re-created “live” Pistol songs, even though they become fuller, cleaner, and more sonically balanced. I consistently preferred the down-and-dirty stereo originals, which seemed more authentic coming at you from off the stage, with appropriate hiss and tininess. 5.1 remixes work for The Beatles, but for punk rock, it’s just too symphonic and not street enough. Nonetheless, in both options, every snarl and sneery, slurring lyric is spat out clear and well separated across the front.


Six hours of extras help set the whole story straight. One commentary includes co-screenwriter, critics, and other filmmakers of the era voicing frustration at how the punk generation’s disillusionment and its characters are so inaccurately and shallowly depicted. A raw, raucus archival documentary mixes behind-the-scenes footage with off-hand throwaways by the irreverent director and cast. Three featurettes cover the disastrous 1978 American tour, one with an interview with Vicious passing out and footage of him assaulting fans. The Pistols’ notorious foul-mouthed TV appearance and TV journalist Janet StreetPorter’s brilliant 1976 exploration delivers accuracy, depth, and insight on the early punk phenomenon—as it’s happening.

When Rotten (as John Lydon) was asked, “Did the movie get anything right?” his reply was “Maybe the name Sid.”

Studio: The Criterion Collection, 1986
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, LPCM 2.0
Length: 113 mins.
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Alex Cox
Starring: Gary Oldman, Chloe Webb, Andrew Schofield