FX’s Shallow Danny Boyle-Directed Sex Pistols Series

Perhaps it is understandable that the biographical works of particularly influential artists rarely meet the creative demands of their subjects. After all, it will be a challenge for any piece of art to recreate the flashy impact of the Sex Pistol’ Never mind Bollockseven one whose story mainly explains how and why Never mind Bollocks already exist.

FX .’s six-episode short Pistol bravely tries to capture some of the band’s spirit in its frenetic, free-spirited style, courtesy of director Danny Boyle. But these efforts are in the service of a story that, though often compelling, feels too good to be revealing. Far from marveling at the system the band intended for their music, Pistol like an album cover of tunes we already know by heart.


Key point

More warping, less substance.

Release date: Tuesday, May 31 (Hulu)
Cast: Toby Wallace, Jacob Slater, Anson Boon, Louis Partridge, Sydney Chandler, Christian Lees, Talulah Riley, Maisie Williams, Emma Appleton, Thomas Brodie-Sangster
Creator: Craig Pearce
Manager: Danny Boyle

The series’ opening minutes define 1970s England as its best and worst through a series of clips from the era: sitcoms and David Bowie at the Odeon, uprisings violence and Queen Elizabeth II. Existing somewhere within that mess is a small band that, over the next five years or so, will grow into the Sex Pistols, take the world by storm and then explode in public fashion. spectacular way. The general shape of their arc will feel familiar regardless of whether the viewer is knowledgeable about this particular band, because it’s an arc that has been repeated in countless other rock biopics before. there.

Pistol does better than some people at breathing a little life into that formula, first and foremost through a pair of special performers. Frontman Johnny Rotten didn’t fully get into the game until episode two, but when he auditioned for the band with a wild performance in Alice Cooper’s “Eighteen,” it felt like a moment of birth. only for John but for Anson Boon, the fierce 22-year-old is playing him. Guitarist and founder Steve Jones (played by Toby Wallace) could be the show’s protagonist – especially because Pistol creator Craig Pearce took mainly from Jones’ memoirs, Lonely boy – but Boon’s John is its soul.

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And if John is its soul, then Malcolm McLaren is its calculating brain. Played by Thomas Brodie-Sangster, he’s such a relentlessly charming Svengali that he turns manipulation into an art form all his own. The repulsion between the trio creates Pistolemotional core, and became our vantage point across the entire British punk scene.

Along with the other members of the band – including drummer Paul Cook (Jacob Slater), bassist Glen Matlock (Christian Lees) and Glen’s eventual replacement as bassist, famed Sid Vicious (Louis Partridge) – The community includes a rotating cast of musicians, artists, models, and creators, even the least autobiographically related will become famous enough to have their own Wikipedia page. So this cast is overblown Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones), one of PistolThe more recognizable young actors who have nothing to do but sit around looking impossibly cool is Jordan, one of the style icons of the punk movement.

The culture’s chaotic party atmosphere is reflected in Boyle’s approach to the kitchen sink. Using a 4:3 aspect ratio reminiscent of TV screens of the era, Pistol switch between the softer focus look and the more intense look, cut footage of the real Pistol and the era newscasts, put his camera at weird angles and edit at insane speed crazy. All are soundtracked by not only the Pistols but also (certainly expensive) ones like David Bowie, Pink Floyd and The Who. While self-evident, the fanfare lends the series a playful sense of humour. Just as useful, it helps distract from the script’s tendency to fall into obvious ludicries that are sometimes invoked by the characters themselves – like when Johnny refutes his tragically accurate prediction. Sid that he won’t live past 21 is a “stupid cliché.”

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In the midst of the frenzy, the real characters – especially the supporters, many of whom are female – can get a little lost. Future Pretenders founder Chrissie Hynde (Sydney Chandler) and fashion icon Vivienne Westwood (Talulah Riley) technically have their own storylines about moving forward in their own careers. But with so little space to do justice, their arcs feel half-baked, and the final characters are largely defined by their relationships with the men around them.

At least they’re better than Nancy Spungen (Emma Appleton), portrayed as an object of annoyance, disgust, and ultimately pity, but never a character worth knowing in her own right. . Or Pauline (Bianca Stephens), who went through all kinds of abuse and humiliation in episode three – all so she could inspire the song “Bodies” before disappearing from the series altogether.

Introspection is not Pistolstrong suit. How much time do its characters spend talking about what they would like Meaning is the Sex Pistols, the series that spends very little time pondering what the band, or their story, ultimately makes up for. One of its most compelling pieces is the conflict between the “raw authenticity” of these working-class bands and their calculated branding, which takes precedence over themselves. music. Sid, in his own admission of a lousy musician, shrugged at John that “Nobody cares about your sound. How you look is what matters.” His enduring popularity in real life seems to solve that.

But how real can someone be when they’re performing in reality? What’s the point of controversy if it’s deliberately staged? More importantly, who are these men or what might they represent? Those are questions that you should feel are especially relevant in today’s age of social media chaos and addiction, but the series doesn’t seem to be particularly capable of answering them or particularly interested in connect them to our present. It will settle for providing established facts with entertaining swagger and it succeeds enough in the purposes of creating a stylish watch. But Pistol too busy admiring the rebellious youth of the past to realize that, in so doing, it becomes exactly what its subjects once mocked: a safe, crowd-pleasing person bronze.

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