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Three stars


Like The Bible, The Sex Pistols story has many versions. Director Danny Boyle and writer Craig Pearce’s six-part drama for FX Productions looks to the gospel according to guitarist Steve Jones as the basis for this latest piece of myth-making, drawn from Jones’ 2017 memoir, Lonely Boy


John Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten, has condemned Pistol as a “middle class fantasy”. If he watches without prejudice, he’ll see an over-excited if eminently watchable yarn that marries reimaginings of well-worn Pistols legends to social history and nods to pre-punk 1970s Brit-flicks, with dropped-in archive footage aplenty. 


Every line of Pearce’s script sounds like a Situationist manifesto, and is delivered with an accompanying performative archness. As Johnny, Anson Boon is more Rik from The Young Ones than Rotten; Talulah Riley and Thomas Brodie-Sangster ham it up wildly as shop-front svengalis Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren; while Maisie Williams makes quite the entrance as the late Jordan Mooney.  


What emerges from the wreckage is a stylised study of how a generation of lost boys and girls stumbled their way kicking and screaming to the frontline of a cultural revolution. At the drama’s heart is Jones’ relationship with future Pretenders vocalist and driving force, Chrissie Hynde, played by Sydney Chandler as badass sparring partner and moral foil. 


Toby Wallace makes for a likeably befuddled Jones, who channels his loutish 

energy into petty thieving and casual sex; anything for the abused child within to hide behind. The band’s mercurial rise and fall may be punctuated by the tragedy of Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen, but it is Jones’ rake’s progress Pistol is really about.


The series finale rewinds to the most heart-warming moment of the Sex Pistols’ short and messy lifespan, full of kids of all ages having fun. Now THAT is anarchy in the U.K.


Pistol premieres in the UK on Disney Plus on May 31.

The List, June 2022






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