Picks and Pans Review: Sid and Nancy

UPDATED 12/01/1986 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 12/01/1986 at 01:00 AM EST

The punk movement hit the late '70s with its dog-collared, spike-haired teenage followers shouting rebellion and slam-dancing to often unintelligible music. This film, directed by Alex (Repo Man) Cox, doesn't try to explain the phenomenon, yet it remarkably captures the outrageousness of a subculture doomed to self-destruction. It is a nightmarish love story about two of punk's best known figures: Sid Vicious, bass player of the British group the Sex Pistols, and Nancy Spungen, his American groupie girlfriend. The story begins and eventually works its way back to the 1978 night that Vicious, played by British stage actor Gary Oldman, allegedly stabbed and killed Spungen, played by New York actress Chloe Webb. (Vicious later died of a heroin overdose.) In between they fight, swear, make love, cope with fame, take heroin, visit Nancy's white-bread family, cut Sid's chest with a razor and laugh a lot. The film is filled with a dark kind of energy and grotesque wit. Oldman plays Vicious as awkward, insecure and violent; Webb's Spungen is tantrum-prone yet has a streak of generosity. They both seem very real, though neither will generate much sympathy. They seem only misbegotten, misunderstood and misdirected. Then again, they probably would have wanted it that way. (R)

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