TonThe Sex Pistols lasted three years, and it’s fair to say a lot happened to them in the brief, dazzling flash of chaos in the late 1970s. Oddly, the pistol (Disney+) ended up feeling too fast and too loose. Danny Boyle Directed the wild, loose drama of this six-part Sex Pistols story, told mostly through the eyes of guitarist Steve Jones. Adapted by Baz Luhrmann’s favorite Craig Pearce, from Jones’ memoir “The Lonely Boy,” it explains Jones’ heavy point of view. The problem with this is that it gives the story a shaky, distorted focus and a frustratingly delayed gratification.
The first episode is about Jones (Toby Wallace), as Jones is known throughout the series, and his horrific, traumatic childhood and life as a young thief. “Rogues like you excite me,” muttered predatory Malcolm McLaren (Thomas Brody Sangster) when Jones was caught trying to get out of his sex with Vivienne Westwood shoplifting. Westwood’s character was introduced to explain things, while McLaren’s slogan. Speaking in statements such as “You are a product of state oppression”, he urged the band to “tear each other up like you sedition sewer rats”. When Johnny Rotten finally showed up and spent an episode or two trying to write the lyrics, he talked on and off the lines from a handful of their songs. This is the pistol: panto.
It takes an episode to introduce Rotten, and when he does appear, it thrives.The camera crawls up the stairs to his bed, hovers at his feet, and finally jerks up to meet the John Lydon stare. Anson Boon plays him resolutely, a snot cross between a wily Dodger, a child catcher, and a lively rodent. Lydon has opposed Pistol since its inception, and his old bandmates took him to court, arguing that they had the right to use the band’s music in it. They won. After the trailer came out, Layden called it a “middle-class fantasy.” “Disney stole the past and created a fairy tale that bears little resemblance to reality,” he said.
Being rejected by Lydon must be the ultimate publicity coup for a franchise that relies on image power. But young Rotten didn’t make it bad: he was just a cartoon character. Another episode decided to revolve around the inspiration for the song Bodies, as a fan stalks Rotten with a bag full of terrible secrets. It’s a creepy story, but given that there are only six episodes to show the entire birth and burnout of the Pistols, it feels odd to give it so much space. Likewise, the romance between Chrissie Hynde (the very good Sydney Chandler) and Jonesy had plenty of time, Hynde was frustrated with the boys who had a chance to be rock stars, while she had to fight a “steamy bunch” of sex Discrimination”. Meanwhile, Jones was battling his own demons. “I screwed up a lot of birds and I played tough,” he said, bottling after an early lead role. “But when I was there, I have nowhere to hide. “
A big ask of the audience, throw away the sentimentality and nihilism and expect it to sit down smoothly. After the band’s early lingering, the show headed for the inevitable implosion: Bill Grandy, America, Drugs, Sid Vicious (Louis Partridge) joins the band and burns miserably. I was reminded of Lydon talking about his friend Sid in Julien Temple’s 2000 documentary The Filth and the Fury. “He just died, for fuck’s sake,” Lydon told Temple, his voice breaking with emotion. “They just turned it into money…poor turf.”
The pistol is bland to me, but there are two things that might make it worth a shot. Actors had to learn how to play their instruments, and the live performance scenes provided much-needed shots of energy. Sounds great and hints at how exciting it must be to be in the room. The scene of the band performing at Chelmsford Prison in 1976 was really tense and then surprisingly happy.
Another was the late Jordan’s Maisie Williams, who got her best shot of the series, scaring sweltering commuters and passersby as she walked through her seaside hometown in clear PVC. “Provocation does make people hungry,” she said in a hoarse voice. Her character could have been. She shows what punk does instead of telling it. The pistol has a lot of ambition, a lot of provocation, but it has no spark.