Nothing worked in the mini-series that the excellent British filmmaker Danny Boyle made based on the memoirs of Steve Jones, the founder and guitarist of the notorious punk band Sex Pistols. That a lot of things could go in the wrong direction, one could sense when it was found out that behind the series about probably the most punk band that ever walked the earth – Disney! If something doesn’t fit in the same sentence, it’s Walt Disney and the Sex Pistols, and Boyle’s intention to film the story of the group’s short-lived life in a somewhat romantic, trainspotting style, turned out to be a real disaster.
Someone who has never heard of the Sex Pistols and does not know who they were and what they represented to the young generation in the mid-seventies will get a completely wrong impression with “Pistol”. Watching this series, one gets the impression that it was a group of incredible idiots, spoiled brats who sulk for some reason known only to them. You don’t get the impression at all that this was a band that literally shocked not only the music scene, but the entire British society as soon as it appeared. It was a band that had never existed before and although it could be argued that the Pistols were indeed a project with which their eccentric manager Malcolm McLaren tried and definitely succeeded in shocking, provoking society and changing the scene for all time, they were not just that.
The pistols were a symbol of rebellion, rebellion, the voice of the then young generation that was usually angry, disappointed and wanted to figuratively (some probably literally) spit in the face of their parents and other authorities and tell them – fuck off! Although this whole movement was certainly partly a rebellion for the sake of rebellion itself, the Pistols quickly crystallized as the messengers of a whole generation of young people (as they themselves were, since none of them were even 20 years old when the band was founded). From this series, we don’t get the impression at all that the Pistols were the most controversial band of their time, and stylistically and narratively, “Pistol” reminded me of the recent biopic “Dirt” about the American hair-metal band Motley Crue.
In vain for Boyle and a good retro camera that tried to achieve the impression as if the series was filmed somewhere in the mid-seventies, and in vain even a solid capture of the social situation in Great Britain in the seventies and placing the story about pistols in a good context. It’s in vain for him to display the visionary vision that he displayed a quarter of a century ago with “Trainspotting”, because he tried to spoof an almost identical style here. The fact that he himself was a witness to that time, since he had just entered his twenties in the mid-seventies, is also in vain for him. He failed Danny, who I normally highly appreciate and love his films, here the whole football and John Lydon, the gentleman once known as Johnny Rotten, rebelled against the filming of this series and such trivialization, stupidization and another attempt to squeeze milk from a dead mare.
The characters are mostly done disastrously, somewhat with the exception of Jones (Toby Wallace), from whose perspective we follow the whole story. The douchebag who played a cameo role in “Game of Thrones” and who played McLaren here is one of the most annoying characters I’ve ever seen on TV and film in my life, and thank God I’ve watched a lot of it. The guy is so grotesque with his croaking, and although McLaren was probably an extremely unsympathetic character in reality, this one here is one of those characters that you would prefer to boo as soon as you see and hear him for the first time. The whole story actually starts here from the boutique that McLaren and Vivienne Westwood owned together, and Chrissie Hynde was the saleswoman there for a while, before she became the frontwoman of the Pretenders.
A young illiterate teenager and thief Jones will accidentally appear there, who wants to start a band with a group of friends. Although Jones can neither sing nor play, McLaren will recognize in him and his band the potential for realizing his ideas and provocations and will become their manager. They will soon be joined by a young and furious Johnny, and the rest is history. Short and sharp because even before they could bask in the glory, the Pistols disbanded and bassist Sid Vicious overdosed shortly after recording their only album, Never Mind the Bollocks. In addition to the life of the Pistols, we also follow here the beginnings of the entire British punk scene and the whole circle that was with young musicians. But the biggest problem is that it all seems so artificial, as if the actors and actresses themselves were not aware of who they were supposed to play.
Even this attempt to make a biographical series about the “Sex Pistols” worked for me, Americans would say Cringeworthy, or in the sense that it was embarrassing, that is, it is a situation when you are uncomfortable watching someone else embarrass themselves. I had no impression at all that this group was really a society of wild, destructive raging maniacs who, perhaps without realizing it, decided to rebel against absolutely everything, including the music of that time, i.e. rock, which at that time ceased to be the music of young people and was lost in the often excruciating symphonies of all those of then popular prog-rock bands that filled stadiums. I didn’t get the impression at all that pistols were something that almost literally emerged from the sewers of society and that in a short time they completely turned everything upside down. Unfortunately, this series was a complete failure and a completely missed opportunity.