Pistol is Danny Boyle’s TV show about the Sex Pistols. I didn’t watch it on release as I’d heard mixed things, and I had plenty of other stuff on my ‘to watch’ list. Eventually, though, I thought I’d give it a go, as I’d always been interested in the story of the band and I was curious to see what Danny Boyle’s creative take on this mad band and this moment in British history would be.
And I’ve gotta say, for the most part, I enjoyed it. I was engaged with the story across pretty much all six of its episodes. The cast were superbly, er, cast, and all gave great performances: in particular Toby Wallace as Steve Jones. I’d previously seen him in the heartbreaking coming-of-age film Babyteeth (2019), where he played the drug addict love interest of the main character, who herself has cancer. That one wasn’t the easiest watch, I’ll grant you, but there was beauty there, in the performance of Wallace and its other lead, Eliza Scanlen.
Anson Boon is another actor that impressed in Pistol. He played Johnny Rotten and added a great deal of tension to the story and scenes he was in; in terms of being fundamental to the band’s early success, sound and look. And speaking of look… a man that recognised the importance of branding and PR was Malcolm McLaren (Thomas Brodie-Sangster). He understood that the raw energy and what the band said (on and off stage) was more important than how they played. And, to give him credit, he was kind of right.
As our story progresses other characters come to the fore, most notably Sid Vicious, played by Louis Partridge. I’d previously seen him as the pretty boy love interest in Enola Holmes (2020), so to see him play Sid, a self-harming drug addict and clearly a man with many demons, to put it mildly, was quite the transformation.
Others on the periphery also made an impact: Talulah Riley as Vivienne Westwood and Sydney Chandler (daughter of Kyle) as Chrissie Hynde, both deserve special mentions. In a longer story than this 6-part miniseries we’d no doubt get to see more of them, but time was limited, in this particular case.
For me, when the miniseries focused on the band’s music and the tension between Johnny Rotten and Steve Jones, that’s when it really worked and had me most engaged. I’m glad I eventually ignored a lot of the reviews from critics and gave it a watch, because it was interesting. Yes, it meandered a bit and the pacing was kind of up and down, but I don’t think I was ever really bored — and some scenes were pretty fantastic, capturing the raw anger and passion of the band’s early work.
Overall, I’d give this miniseries 4/5 stars.