Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll

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A biography of Ian Dury who was stricken with polio at a young age and defied expectations by becoming one of the founder of the punk-rock scene in Britain in the 1970s.

Release Year: 2010

Rating: 6.3/10 (1,677 voted)

Critic's Score: 57/100

Director: Mat Whitecross

Stars: Andy Serkis, Tom Hughes, Clifford Samuel

A biography of Ian Dury who was stricken with polio at a young age and defied expectations by becoming one of the founder of the punk-rock scene in Britain in the 1970s.

Andy Serkis - Ian Dury
Tom Hughes - Chaz Jankel
Clifford Samuel - Charlie Charles
Joseph Kennedy - Davey Payne
Arthur Darvill - Mick Gallagher
James Jagger - John Turnbull (as Jimmy Jagger)
Shakraj Soornack - Norman Watt-Roy
Mackenzie Crook - Russell Hardy
Olivia Williams - Betty Drury
Sam Spruell - Kilburns' Drummer
Julian Cox - Kilburns' Bass
Nick Rowson - Kilburns' Guitar
Wesley Nelson - Young Ian Dury
Ross Boatman - Pub Landlord
Msimisi Dlamini - Kilburns' Drums


Official Website: Official site |

Release Date: 5 May 2010

Box Office Details

Budget: £2,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend: £173,831 (UK) (10 January 2010) (131 Screens)

Gross: £427,956 (UK) (17 January 2010)

Technical Specs


Factual errors: When Baxter discards the Stretch Hulk birthday present from his Dad in the bin, you can clearly see that it is a standard action figure, and not a 'stretch' toy.

User Review

Very Good Indeed


Like an uncommonly honest MP, this reviewer must declare a particular interest: Ian Dury was born on 12 May, a Tuesday. Me too: Tuesday, 12 May. (Albeit 28 years later.) Andy Serkis, who plays him here, is half-Iraqi, like me. And while Dury studied under Peter Blake at the Royal College Of Art, I, er, once worked in the Royal College Of Art shop. Polio helped make Dury the man he was, but cancer ultimately made him bigger than life. There's an allotment set aside in every heart for one of England's national treasures.

And not just England's: strange as it is to picture a generation of nascent Brooklyn and West Coast rappers wigging out to Black Sabbath or German art minimalists during the 1970s, how stranger still that A Tribe Called Quest should sample Dury for 'Can I Kick It'? Or is it? The Blockheads sound is a steaming gumbo of (hugely influential) influences: a dollop of pub rock, a sprinkling of free jazz, a dash of lover's rock, a generous infusion of English music hall, all topped off with Chas Jankel and Co's boiling blue funk. What's not to like about that lot?

It shouldn't really work, but it does - just like the frontman himself, as complicated as any artist worth their sodium chloride. Kitted-out like he'd ram-raided a jumble sale run by a collective of art students, Psychobillies and NHS outpatients, Dury's arty 'Do It Yourself' attitude anticipated British Punk Rock (which studied, literally, at his feet) by several years. Not that he aligned himself with any such movement. There's a lovely clip on YouTube from 1979, in which he invites "Mickey Jones from The Clash" up on stage to play 'Sweet Gene Vincent with him.' "Now listen," he warns the Clash man, "we've got *four* chords in this song, Michael..." Jones' gloriously chagrined grin is worth the admission alone.

So, are we to mourn this real mensch's decline with some Thunderbird wine and a black handkerchief then? Or instead, party like it's 1977? Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll is a truly life-affirming and brilliantly unsentimental celebration of the Mockney and his music. Serkis was born to play this role, allowing him to make the most of his celebrated physicality and vocal dexterity. (So convincing, in fact, the real Blockheads have suggested Serkis subsequently go on the road with them.)

Whether barrelling, quip-me-quick, through a set - a defiant Long John Silver with a singing range that starts out like a caress from a brillo pad soaked in brandy - and ends up like a charging Cockney Elephant; making a literal breakfast of a recording studio by pouring milk and eggs into the mixing desk; or bellowing the song that gives the film its title - and really, what other title could there possibly be? - he's the spit, snot and fag ash of the unofficial Poet Laureate who gave us the likes of 'Billericay Dickie', 'Plaistow Patricia', and of course, 'Spasticus Autisticus': it's one of the ironies of his career that the showman's terrifically self-assertive contribution to 1982's United Nations Year of The Disabled was subsequently banned. "I'm not Tiny Tim, I'm Ian Dury!" he roars at "Graham from the Spastics Society". "People like me don't want sympathy - we want respect!"

Respect is what the filmmakers bring, by the bucket-and-spade, closely aided by Dury's daughter Jemima and son Baxter - now a musician in his own right, who appeared with his dad on the cover of 'New Boots And Panties', looking for all the world like Dodger to Ian's Bill Sikes. And this is really a film about fathers and sons. Bill Milner plays Baxter, a rock star's son going predictably, if spectacularly, off the rails, and Ray Winstone is Ian's adored dad Bill. Between these generational polarities, Ian struggles to reconcile familial responsibilities (and two lovers) with his growing fame, while trying to do right by his father's memory.

"Being an underdog with nothing to lose is a good place to start in life," Bill tells him, teaching him to stand on his own two feet, if only with the aid of callipers. Years later, when too busy to watch over Baxter's swimming session, Ian's glibly departing words are "Keep your head up, keep kicking, try not to drown." It was in a swimming pool, of course, where Ian contracted polio. As we say, complicated. Dury puts it more bluntly: "To be a geezer like me, you've got to be a bit of a selfish loony; occasionally one's behaviour makes one ashamed of oneself."

All of which probably suggests scenes of anarchic mayhem followed by periods of reflection and redemption. Well, bollo to that, 'cos this ain't your average rock star biopic either: no insultingly reductive peaks and troughs. As Dury states towards the end of the film, "The only thing I've missed is a few buses." Instead, scenes are introduced, non-linear-fashion, via the appropriate conceit of a stage performance: backdrops spring to life, as real-life morphs into pop videos. There's sterling support too from Naomie Harris as Ian's girlfriend Denise Roudette, and Olivia Williams as his extremely understanding first wife Betty. Actually, being 'extremely understanding' would appear to be the default setting for anybody within this force of nature's sphere.

Ian, you feel, would have really enjoyed this film, as playful and rough around the gills as he was, with a gleefully inventive aesthetic. He would have also liked the fact its producer set up a disability training scheme for young, disabled, aspiring actors and filmmakers during the production; there's a scene toward the end in which Ian visits a group of disabled kids, and addresses them with exactly the same beautiful frankness he'd reserve for anybody. The final 10 minutes treats us to a superbly recreated Blockheads gig, for which they should clear the cinemas of seats and let the people mosh till they drop. Oi Oi!


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