Written by Becca Johnson
Based on band member Steve Jones' memoir “Lonely Boy: Tales from a Sex Pistol” and directed by Danny Boyle (Trainspotting), limited series Pistol tells the story of the infamous, furious, anarchic punk band. Aching to shake the corrupt establishment and bring down the government, the Sex Pistols are widely known as the individuals who created the British punk movement of the late 70's; this series takes us on their rocky, chaotic three year journey. Pistol is full to the brim with sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll which help to keep it afloat, though obvious pacing and storyline issues prevent it from creating a movement of its own.
First and foremost, Pistol is a biopic, meaning it relies on its performances and how well its young actors can resemble the punk rockers they're playing. Thomas Brodie-Sangster gives an over-the-top yet captivating performance as Malcolm McLaren, manager of the Sex Pistols and invoker of anarchy. Talulah Riley embodies a young Vivienne Westwood with ease, getting minimal screen time yet still packing a punch. Toby Wallace excels as the Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones, who the show follows as a lead character. Sydney Chandler as Chrissie Hynde is a heavenly casting, with gorgeous vocals and a mesmerising softness to her performance. Louis Partridge is heartbreaking and remarkable as Sid Vicious, bassist for the band during the final couple of episodes. However, it's Anson Boon who truly shines and takes the reigns as frontman John Lydon, known as Johnny Rotten. He has charm, charisma, angst and a whirlwind of talent, giving Boon the boost to stardom that he deserves. He is definitely one to watch, and the show is worth watching for him alone. Those who are thinking of streaming simply for Maisie Williams will be disappointed, as she barely hits the screen.
Danny Boyle is a household name by now for his direction, invoking trust and excitement unto audiences when it's announced he's behind another project. Pistol is full of his signature style, which elevates the material to the next level. The movie has a gritty look to it, which when paired with the awesome costuming and make-up, creates a show that replicates the 70's punk era well. Every scene is packed with energy and colour, making for a stunning watch no matter what the story-line may be. The editing is also 70's reminiscent, experimental and chaotic, matching the tone of the plot with ease. It feels fresh and new in it's visuals, unlike anything we've seen before yet still having an obvious Boyle touch. It's the look of the show, along with the performances, that keep you invested.
Unfortunately, this is also where it falters – in Pistol, punk is a 'look' rather than a feeling and a movement. Sometimes the performances and plot are a little too theatrical, taking the real feel away from the story. It's also a shame to realise that a lot of plot points in here simply aren't real, some key events in the show not having occurred at all. The show is based on guitarist Steve Jones' autobiography, naturally placing him as the lead in the series, but it often feels like he isn't the most interesting character to follow despite Toby Wallace's killer performance. The series sets up the story with a couple of episodes that fully focus on Steve, which is great for character development, but also means a lot of the latter portion is rushed. Some key elements are glossed over like they mean nothing, such as Nancy Spungen's murder and the punk movement as a whole. We don't really get to see much of the movement that the Sex Pistols were advocating which is a great shame.
What brings everything together and makes it worthwhile is of course the music. We not only get to see the Sex Pistols create their much loved punk bangers such as 'Anarchy in the UK' and 'God Save the Queen', but we get to listen to a whole whirlwind of 70's stars including Bowie, T-Rex, The Who, Pink Floyd and many more. Importantly, we get our introduction to Chrissie Hynde, who becomes good friends with the Pistols whilst aiming to start her own career in music. She is widely known today as being the founding member and lead vocalist of The Pretenders. Above all else we're here for the music and it's a treat.
Pistol is an often disappointing limited series as it's inaccurate at times, with pacing issues that take attention from the key moments in the Sex Pistols short career. The final episodes are a little too rushed to fully get behind, and at the end of it all, it feels like the show could've been about anyone as it follows patterns we've seen before. However, the performances, music and punk attitude make this series incredibly easy to binge. The storyline is compelling, the characters are wildly intriguing and it's filled with chaos, violence, rock, sex and drugs. It has energy from start to finish, never letting it's audience pause for a breath. It's undeniably fun, it'll keep you invested and is well worth the watch.