Top critical review
Vacant, Not Pretty
on March 21, 2000
Every punk I knew was disgusted when this debuted in 1986. We weren't expecting much from Hollywood, but this was still shockingly bad--just an ugly exploitation of punk rock's "weirdness" for suburban shopping-mall crowds. Alex Cox had the talent and the budget to make a probing film about pop culture, the media, our need for human contact and the hazards of all three, but instead he opted for a freak show.
Besides the shallowness of the whole concept and the triteness of the central "romance" (how much cartoon irony can we stomach past age 5?), several huge flaws dominate. Schofield is abominable as Johnny Rotten, Chloe Webb plays Nancy as a whiny, middle-aged barfly, instead of the manipulative but driven naif that she was, and the plot is full of fabrications and countless anachronisms. Not that there really is a plot--the (listless) scenes seem to have been cobbled together at random, following no logic and accruing no momentum. Every funny moment is followed by several minutes of dead air. The irony is that the filmmakers had so much exciting material, so many telling anecdotes, to choose from. And they wound up with something so vacuous and boring.
Gary Oldman gives an outstanding performance as Sid Vicious, immersing himself in the role until you would almost believe he was Sid, were he eight years younger. But even his genius can't save this lazy and ill-conceived mess of a movie.