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Pistol, Disney+ review - Punk history repeats itself as farce | reviews, news & interviews

Pistol, Disney+ review - Punk history repeats itself as farce

Pistol, Disney+ review - Punk history repeats itself as farce

Danny Boyle's Sex Pistols drama is fast, funny and furious

I wanna destroy you: Thomas Brodie-Sangster as super-Svengali Malcolm McLaren

The fact that John Lydon has complained so long and so loudly about director Danny Boyle’s TV drama about the Sex Pistols has only served to pump up interest in the project.

“I'm the one that wrote those songs, right. I gave them their image. I gave them everything. And they've done this rather snidey kind of piece of work behind my back," raged Lydon on ITV’s This Morning. Danny Boyle is an “arsehole”, he added (pictured below, the real John Lydon).

A dollop of Rotten-esque spleen is just the job for pushing the show into the limelight, and its pacey, lurid and cartoon-like nature should guarantee it an audience, even if a lot of the names and references are going to be a total mystery to viewers under 50. Or even 60. It’s incredible to think that James Callaghan (who?) was Prime Minister when the Pistols released "God Save the Queen".

Pistol, Disney+Based on the book by Pistols guitarist Steve Jones, Lonely Boy: Tales from a Sex Pistol, Boyle’s series takes a lairy swagger through mid-Seventies London. As news clips remind us, it was a time of strikes, piles of rubbish rotting in the streets, thuggish cops and horrible British Leyland cars. The only ray of light, it seems, was the music (and the style and wardrobe) of David Bowie. It was the perfect setting for an outbreak of Anarchy UK.

Since Steve Jones wrote the book, he looms quite large in the show. He’s played by Toby Wallace (from Melbourne) with a reasonably plausible amount of yobby, nihilistic swagger, his bottomless reservoir of disillusionment stemming from his broken family background and the all-round “no future” ambience. Still, he does have a talent for nicking stuff, including lots of musical equipment from backstage at the Hammersmith Odeon, including a microphone which still has Bowie’s lipstick on it. He’s trying to put together a band called The Swankers, despite not being able to play any musical instruments. He has, however, written a song called "I’m a Lazy Sod".

The action hots up when he visits SEX, the King’s Road boutique of Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren which proved to be the crucible of Punk Rock. Steve is in the store one day, furtively “borrowing” some bondage trousers, when he’s called out by the shop assistant. She turns out to be Chrissie Hynde (Sydney Chandler), another aspiring rock’n’roller who will in due course form The Pretenders.

Meanwhile McLaren’s curiosity is piqued by Jones, who he senses he can use as a tool in his planned socio-musical putsch. Thomas Brodie-Sangster’s portrayal of McLaren is the jewel in Pistol’s crown, as he relishes the shameless entrepreneur’s berserk flights of fancy and great swirling curlicues of baroque rhetoric. He’s barely met Jones before he’s declaring him “a product of state repression”. Having previously dressed glam-punks the New York Dolls in Chinese Communist costumes, he’s hell-bent on creating a revolution – “I don’t want musicians, I want saboteurs, assassins, I want shock troops!” (the Pistols pictured below).Pistol, Disney+You wouldn’t call McLaren a hero exactly, but he has more front than the Great Wall of China. When Jones’s thieving gets him arrested, McLaren swoops into the court in a suit and bowler hat and delivers a brilliantly florid encomium to Jones’s sterling character. The judge lets him go.

Tongue-in-cheekness is everywhere, not least in Anson Boon’s crafty portrayal of Lydon / Johnny Rotten as a kind of warped, snarky, executioner-savant who’s miles smarter than his somewhat grotesque appearance would suggest. “Come and see us play, we’re awful,” he sneers at bystanders.

The walk-on cast is a who’s who of semi-forgotten names from Punk, like Siouxsie Sioux and the Bromley Contingent, Jordan and Soo Catwoman. There’s room, too, for lordly NME journalist Nick Kent and his Keith Richards fixation, while a becaped, synthesizer-swaddled Rick Wakeman and his Myths and Legends of King Arthur is held up as the acme of everything Punk wanted to demolish. Larks a-plenty!

You wouldn’t call Malcolm McLaren a hero exactly, but he has more front than the Great Wall of China


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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