There's a great deal of romanticisation of heroin addiction in punk mythology. There's also a tendency for those who love punk to romanticise its early heroes. This edgy biopic from cult director Alex Cox does neither, though it shows very clearly how they romanticised themselves, and all the self-destruction that led to.

There are still those of us who remember Sid fondly, but he was a screwed up kid, and people like that are a lot less fun to actually spend time around. Catapulted to fame in 1977 as part of Malcolm McLaren's openly exploitative angry boy band The Sex Pistols, and becoming its 'singer' the following year when Johnny Rotten left in disgust, he was an awkward kid from a rough background who had never expected much from life. When groupie Nancy Spungen took an interest in him (after being rejected by Rotten), what started as casual sex soon became something more, and Sid's life was transformed. But not the way he might have hoped. Because with Nancy came heroin.

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A story like this could easily have been utterly bleak, despite the powerful music. It is to Cox's credit that he packs it full of energy and humour that keep one gripped right up until the end, even as Sid and Nancy's lives spiral toward seemingly inescapable destruction. Nancy whines. Sid lashes out. Nancy threatens to leave him, but, of course, she'll always come back. There's a undeniable tenderness between them at times, yet neither is able to cope with the world, and they're increasingly unable to cope with each other. Ultimately they find their way to the Chelsea Hotel.

Alex Cox has said since that he thinks he went too easy on his protagonists in the end, but this certainly isn't an advert for heroin or for the way of life that goes with it. It's played with a raw honesty by Gary Oldman, who perfectly inhabits Sid's pallid skin, and Chloe Webb, giving the performance of a lifetime as Nancy, who remains magnetic despite all the ugliness of her behaviour. There's great chemistry between them which serves to remind us what Sid and Nancy might have enjoyed had they pulled themselves together.

If you're new to the films of Alex Cox, this is a great introduction to his work. It is also, without doubt, one of the best rock biopics out there.

Reviewed on: 04 Feb 2009
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Biopic focusing on the last few months of The Sex Pistols' Sid Vicious and his girlfriend Nancy Spungen.
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Director: Alex Cox

Writer: Alex Cox, Abbe Wool

Starring: Gary Oldman, Chloe Webb, David Hayman, Andrew Schofield, Debby Bishop, Xander Berkeley, Perry Benson, Tony London, Edward Tudor-Pole, Courtney Love

Year: 1986

Runtime: 112 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: UK

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