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HomeVideodrome: 'Sid & Nancy' – Gary Oldman's Star-Making Role


Due to obligations over the Christmas holiday, there will be no HomeVideodrome podcast this week.

For the anarchistic, screw-you attitude that comes with punk rock in movies, one need look no further than the films of Alex Cox. “Repo Man” is the greatest movie ever made when it comes to capturing the punk aesthetic, and even Cox’s lesser works like “Straight to Hell” share its chaotic mindset.

Cox’s great genre love is the spaghetti western. He can be found on the supplements to numerous DVDs discussing films by the likes of Sergio Leone and Sergio Corbucci. But even when he dabbles in the western in films like “Walker,” the snarling spirit of punk comes seeping through (methinks the magnificent score by the late Joe Strummer in that particular film certainly adds to it). Only once has Cox delved into a straightforward fictionalization of a chapter in the history of punk, and that’s when he chronicled the most unhealthy relationship in the history of rock n’ roll with “Sid & Nancy” in 1986.

The way Cox chose to depict his subjects caught a great deal of flak from the community it depicts, as John Lydon himself dismissed the film as “mere fantasy … the Peter Pan version,” and Clash bassist Paul Simonon decried what he saw as a depiction of Lydon as a “fat, beer-slurping idiot.

Lydon, however, did give props to the great Gary Oldman’s performance in the lead as Sid Vicious, but he noted that Oldman “only played the stage persona as opposed to the real person.” But “Sid & Nancy” isn’t a film that feels like a presentation of deep personal truth. For that, one must go watch Julien Temple’s excellent “The Filth and The Fury,” which chronicles the history of The Sex Pistols in a delightfully formless manner.

Instead, Cox’s film feels like the the sort of truth that this psychotic couple represent to the world of punk rock; it is the depiction of their public persona rather than one that gets to know the “real” Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen. It’s the Sid and Nancy we see handcuffed together in a photograph, sneering into the camera.

While Oldman had been noted for giving standout performances in films like Mike Leigh’s underseen TV movie “Meantime,” “Sid & Nancy” was the movie where he erupted as a force of a nature in the acting world, proving himself to be a leading man of undeniable intensity. Chloe Webb reaches a perfect level of shrill sycophancy as Nancy, and their toxic chemistry builds until it finally poisons them on that fateful, heroin-soaked evening in the Hotel Chelsea. Where “Sid & Nancy” falters is on its final notes, the taxi to the heavens being a sourly sentimental note to end such a bleak rock n’ roll relationship saga on.

The film comes to Blu-ray this week, and it’s a shame that Criterion no longer retains the rights to release it as their old DVD edition goes for a pretty penny. The Blu-ray sports a few bite-sized featurettes but nothing on the level that was contained on the Criterion release. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they’ll be able to bring it back in a nice, updated Blu-ray package, but for now, this is what we get, and it ain’t bad.

Available on Blu-ray

Other Noteworthy Releases

Final Destination 5: These movies are essentially excuses to kill people in complex, absurdly violent ways, which is something I fully support. Silly, formulaic horror comfort food. May give you gas later.

Available on Blu-ray and DVD

Apollo 18: My favorite kind of horror is horror with a shot of science fiction, but the “found footage” gimmick is old hat.

Available on Blu-ray and DVD

Hostel – Part III: Here’s the sure sign we’re in the post-holiday DVD dumping ground. I’ve fallen so out of touch with the underbelly of the horror genre that I was unaware that “Hostel” was still a thing.

Available on DVD

In the Name of the King 2: The first movie in this newly-minted, uh, “series” is a bit of a guilty pleasure. The misfire casting (Burt Reynolds?! MATTHEW LILLARD?!), the ham-crusted cheeseball dialogue, the impressive choreography by Ching Siu-Tung, and Jason Statham’s cold stare make it a trashy delight. So, will I be watching Uwe Boll’s sequel starring Dolph “I Must Break You ” Lundgren? Um, hell yes.

Available on Blu-ray, DVD, and Amazon Instant

Brighton Rock: An adaptation of the Graham Greene novel starring Sam Riley and Helen Mirren. Carol Reed did wonders with Greene’s material, seeing it with Rowan Joffe’s modern eye should be interesting.

Available on DVD


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