Johnny Rotten was right about stopping FX pistol from going forward.
The Sex Pistols and PiL frontman was unsuccessful in his legal efforts last year to stop the use of the groundbreaking band’s music in the Danny Boyle-directed miniseries. However, Pistol, out today in its entirety on Disney’s Hulu, is an overly sentimental love letter that should never have been sent. You’d find more depth and authenticity about how England has truly dreamed through the decades in this week’s lavish Platinum Jubilee for Elizabeth II’s disastrous reign.
simply put, pistol It’s more junk than punk.
Even with searing classics like “God Save the Queen” in the well-crafted soundtrack mix, the six-episode series, based in part on guitarist Steve Jones’ 2017 memoir, limps along when it should roar. Limping on a surprisingly inferior coming-of-age story held together figuratively and literally by amphetamines, safety pins and the POV of Toby Wallace as Jones, pistol caught up in the contradictions of the Sex Pistols where she could have luxuriated with revolutionary enthusiasm and clear eyes.
In that sense, vocalist John Lydon’s sparring could have been a sharper blueprint for Craig Pierce’s bloated project Rotten: No Irish, no blacks, no dogs 1993 merged into the saga of the band’s Situationist-inspired manager in Paul Gorman’s admittedly dubbed The Life and Times of Malcolm McLaren: The Biography from 2020. While both books are problematic, like their central themes, they are also not afraid to trudge through the grueling realities of post-war British working class life and the personal tenacity of their protagonists.
This is something you won’t find much of behind the music-formatted pistol. As a constructed band, Wallace’s Jones, Anson Boon’s Lydon/Rotten, Louis Partridge’s Sid Vicious, Jacob Slater’s drummer Paul Cook and Christian Lee’s original bassist Glen Matlock are just pawns in Boyle and Pearce’s nostalgia game. Damned, pistolPerhaps his greatest achievement is his ability to portray the manipulative and occasionally white-hot McLaren, as played here by Schelm The Queen’s Gambit Thomas Brodie-Sangster as the somber “lost little boy”.
That kind of faux pas and slippage at the undeniably talented hands of Boyle and Pearce is in no small part how pistol stumbles away from everything that was so outstanding about 1986’s Alex Cox Sid & Nancy, with Gary Oldman. Where this film was for the icon, this show leans into boring convention. Throwing in a kind of Bowie cameo, the irregular tempo pistol is pretty much a boys club, with Game of Thrones’ Maisie Williams as punk icon Jordan and the trio of Chrissie Hynde (Sydney Chandler), Vivienne Westwood (Talulah Riley) and Nancy Spungen (Emma Appleton) were mostly abused.
production designer train spotting Alum Kave Quinn does more than solid work depicting the brutal desolation of 1970s Britain with its noxious fumes of faded imperial swagger, but the gutter and stardust origins of punk rock and the Pistols were about much more than that Appearance or even the times. With only one full-length album under their respective belts and only three years of existence and not-so-embarrassing reunions in 1996 and 2007, the Sex Pistols were a cultural paradox. The FX Productions mini-series from the EPs Jones, Boyle, Moulin Rouge! Co-writers Pearce Gail Lyon, Anita Camarata, Tracey Seaward, Paul Lee, Hope Hartman and wiip draw all the blood, guts and broken fingernails from what is by definition an epic tale of a gang of young men snatching money from chaos and more.
Just before the end of the very last Sex Pistols gig of the imploding band’s 1978 Imploding America tour, then-Johnny Rotten asked the crowd at San Francisco’s Winterland, “Have you ever felt like you’ve been betrayed?”
Over 40 years later, FX’s pistol knows his blushing answer.