Pistol. Singular, not plural. Though this series does cover the short reign of the iconic punk rock band Sex Pistols, it is fundamentally a biopic of the group’s co-founder and guitarist Steve Jones. As such, while it would be impossible to push the likes of Johnny Rotten and Malcolm McLaren to the background, unexpected characters like Chrissie Hynde do get an equal amount of airtime. Pistol is all the better for it.
Tormented by an abusive childhood, Jones’ anger found an outlet in the rock band he started with school friends Paul Cook and Wally Nightingale. A fateful decision to engage Malcolm McLaren, the proprietor of a local fetish clothing store, as the group’s manager results in Wally’s departure and the addition of Glen Matlock and Johnny Rotten. Never mind the bollocks that Jones couldn’t play guitar and Rotten couldn’t sing, McLaren had loftier ambitions. Unfortunately, they didn’t necessarily align with the band’s best interests. Ongoing rifts amongst members of the group would lead to more personnel changes, a disastrous tour of the US and the Sex Pistols ultimately tearing itself apart.
Director Danny Boyle adopts a mixture of frenetic editing and an eclectic soundtrack to root this biopic to the world that the Pistols rebelled against. Images of royalty, poverty and contemporary artists (Leo Sayer, Bay City Rollers, Rick Wakeman) are wedged into the storyline with an attitude reflective of the band. So much so, that by the time such punk rock classics as 'Anarchy in the U.K.', 'God Save the Queen' and 'Pretty Vacant' erupt onscreen they are surprisingly welcomed.
As are the performances of the ensemble cast. Thomas Brodie-Sangster is delightfully mischievous as the self-proclaimed puppeteer Malcolm McLaren and though Anson Boon’s Johnny Rotten may bring to mind echoes of ‘The Young Ones’ Rik and Vyvyan, it is a well-rounded portrayal that takes his character beyond the role of performing jester. Special mention must also be made of Sydney Chandler as Chrissie Hynde. The quieter moments shared between her and Jones provide a nice counterbalance to all the noise emanating from the band, both on and off the stage.
In its penultimate scene, Pistol reinforces this point when Jones advises Rotten “It ain’t always about you mate”. Maybe not, but geez the story would be a lot less entertaining without him.
as Johnny Rotten
as Sid Vicious
as Steve Jones
as Paul Cook
Though there were definite plans to kidnap Nancy Spungen and send her back to New York, it is unclear whether any came to fruition.