Pistol review: Danny Boyle’s ode to the Sex Pistols will get your blood pumping


???PISTOL??? -- Pictured (L-R): Jacob Slater as Paul Cook, Anson Boon as John Lyndon, Toby Wallace as Steve Jones, Christian Lees as Glen Matlock . CR: Miya Mizuno/FX

Pistol shows how an unwanted working-class lad kick-started a cultural revolution (Picture: Miya Mizuno/FX)

Pistol kicks off with a David Bowie fantasy, a spot of light thieving and then a high-speed car chase – and it doesn’t take its foot off the accelerator from that moment.

Danny Boyle’s ode to the Sex Pistols will certainly get your blood pumping.

Based on Pistols guitarist Steve Jones’s memoir Lonely Boy, Pistol is mostly told from his perspective and shows how an unwanted working-class lad kick-started a cultural revolution.

Jones (Toby Wallace) is joined by Johnny Rotten (Anson Boon, capturing his wide-eyed mania brilliantly), bassist Glen Matlock (Christian Lees), drummer Paul Cook (Jacob Slater) and eventually by the chaotic Sid Vicious (Louis Partridge) to shake 1970s England out of its stupor.

They are helped along by an impressive supporting cast of 70s icons: from fashion icon Vivienne Westwood (Talulah Riley) to the Pistols manager Malcolm McClaren (Thomas Brodie-Sangster, absolutely nailing it) to punk upstart and future Pretender Chrissie Hynde (Sydney Chandler) who just wants to make her mark in a male-dominated industry.

Maisie Williams even goes some way to shaking off her ‘kid from Game of Thrones’ tag as the uproarious Jordan, a punk icon with skyscraper blonde hair.

As a whistle-stop tour of punk history, it certainly covers most of the bases.

Despite a lively script from Baz Luhrmann’s frequent collaborator, Craig Pearce, this is very much a Danny Boyle passion project.

The irrepressible director hasn’t been this twitchy since Trainspotting and at times it can be a little off-putting as Pistol is edited to within an inch of its life.

There are frequent cutaways, bundles of vault footage spliced in, and the whole show is shot in 4:3 aspect ratio to really hammer home that this is set in the 1970s. But, by that same token, I’ll be darned if it isn’t entertaining.

Pistol moves at such a clip and with such a restless energy that it’s impossible not to be dragged along with it – even if you are kicking and screaming at it to slow the heck down occasionally.


???PISTOL??? -- Pictured (L-R): Sydney Chandler as Chrissie Hynde, Talulah Riley as Vivienne Westwood. CR: Miya Mizuno/FX

Talulah Riley stars as fashion icon Vivienne Westwood (Picture: Miya Mizuno/FX)


???PISTOL??? -- Pictured (L-R): Louis Partridge as Sid Vicious, Anson Boon as John Lyndon, Toby Wallace as Steve Jones. CR: Miya Mizuno/FX

Punk is all about the reaction (Picture: Miya Mizuno/FX)

But let’s address the elephant in the room: can Pistol truly be punk? This is the question that is going to inspire a million think pieces up-and-down the land and, yeah, they have a point.

Danny Boyle is a multi-millionaire with a string of high-profile movies under his belt, it’s a show launching on Disney of all places (you simply cannot be more establishment than that) and Pistols frontman John Lydon has declared it, gulp, middle-class.

You can’t really argue with any of those points – but we would argue with the framing.

Punk has always been obsessed with authenticity, often forgetting that even in the 70s the movement was quickly co-opted to become a money-making device usually by the very people at the centre of it.

But punk has never been about the art, it’s about the reaction. It’s what it inspires in those who see it, watch it or wear it.

The success of Pistol won’t be about how realistic a depiction of the Sex Pistols it is, its success will be measured by the reaction of those who watch it. 

Maybe they’ll take a look at the country now and realise things really aren’t that much different.

Or, to put it another way: never mind that boll***s, go watch Pistol.

Pistol is streaming on Disney+ from Tues 31st May

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