Made in 1986, this relatively close-to-the-time film documents the fallen royalty of punk rock in the relationship between Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols and his girlfriend, rock groupie Nancy Spungen.
Sid Vicious is really the focal point here, as it tells the story of the murder of Nancy in the sleazy Chelsea Hotel in New York City; almost as a conclusion to the story of Sidís rise from the gutters of England to rock icon and all the way back down again. Itís an ugly story and one told with plenty of rich metaphor throughout and dynamic performances from Gary Oldman and Chloe Webb in the lead roles.
Director Alan Cox has well captured the decay of late 70s London under the Thatcher government and the stagnancy of the New York punk movement that followed. In the anti-heroes of the leads, however, he has attempted to paint the two in an objective manner, though this occasionally slips, letting in a less than objective delivery. And not that this is a great deal; it isnít, as the vast majority of the film is pure objectivity and that works to tell the story fairly well. In these other instances the cracks show through in the veneer of the film and this is a failing in the overall telling of the story.
Historical moments of the Sex Pistols and Sid Vicious performances are mildly disconcerting as they resemble but not entirely duplicate images we are all more than familiar with, regardless of our musical leanings. Itís gotta be a less than devoted music fan whose never seen the Sid Vicious My Way film clip. It turns up on Rage every so often (yet never on Video Hits, shock of shocks). Whether this is intentional or not, it breeds a subconscious level of incredulity that detracts from the filmís narrative.
If youíre a fan of the ill-fated pair, you may find this document a disappointing recollection of their relationship, however, it may also thrill; itís not like many people are truly making biopics about punk rock stars and their sluttish groupie girlfriends. Whatever the case, this is the sort of film that depends on personal feelings about the era, the music and the status of punk itself. I doubt my parents would enjoy it much, but I, with a leaning toward the punk attitude in my youth, found I didnít like it as much as I expected to. This has absolutely nothing to do with the mostly brilliant performances Ė Gary Oldman proves heís always had an amazing grasp of the method Ė but the story delivery itself. A film is being made where no real story exists, regardless of the historical or iconic context. Itís worth a look for the fans, but for anyone else I canít imagine this being too gripping. Keep an eye out though for Courtney Love, who appears to play herself in this film, years before she plays herself in the group Hole. Life is strange.
This is a fairly neat delivery for a 1986 film. The picture quality is quite sharp and clear with good saturation of colours and blacks. Shadow detail is moderate, while flesh tones revolve heavily in the pallid orbit (though it is about the English after all). The picture is delivered in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio and features anamorphic punk rock enhancement. Limited artefacts are present, though these of course do nothing to hamper the content of the film.
A corker Dolby Digital stereo delivery here would have been nicer granted us in 5.1, but I guess we canít have everything. With Prologic enabled the surrounds do carry some music and the subwoofer is always supportive and deep and builds onto the darker atmosphere of the film. Dialogue is a bit confusing at times and there are no English subtitles to help us out with accents and cranky deliveries.
Music has been scored by Joe Strummer, The Pogues and Pray For Rain, who all contribute ideals they learned during the period in question themselves. Itís a gritty and grotty score that suits the film admirably.
If youíre a fan of the Pistols, you might find something here to entertain you, though donít get it for the Ďliveí performances. Itís worth a look for the fans, but whether it has any rewatchable appeal, I canít say. Itís just gotta come down to your personal choice regarding the punk movement and the music of the featured players.