When I think about the Sex Pistols, the first thing that comes to mind is the Sid & Nancy tragedy. Unfortunately, it overshadows anything else regarding this infamous band, which is why I was looking forward to getting a better sense of them and the story of their origins. I heard that Johnny Rotten tried to sue to stop them from making this show — I’m glad he failed and couldn’t stop them.
Directed by Danny Boyle, who has a solid connection with music in the films he makes; I mean, the man directed Yesterday (2019) and has an impressive filmography. This Pistols limited series is primarily based on the Steve Jones memoir Lonely Boy: Tales from a Sex Pistol (2017) and adapted by Craig Pearce, who often writes for Baz Luhrman and most recently collaborated on the screenplay for Elvis (2022).
Although the story is told in 6-hour-long episodes, it still feels somewhat compressed, particularly towards the end, when depicting the events before and after Sid and Nancy’s death. Nonetheless, this limited series offers plenty of exciting and remarkable things to unpack.
It is all about the life of Steve Jones (Toby Wallace). We get to see how damaged Steve Jones was. He came from a troubled family background, where there seems to have been abuse at home. Steve was in his early 20s and could not read or write. But his childhood needed more emphasis, and it wasn’t highlighted as much as I wanted to—especially the child abuse aspect. Also, I had no idea about the relationship between Steve Jones and Chrissie Hynde (Sydney Chandler) from The Pretenders. Their love affair during their early days was very compelling.
The casting of the band members is mainly made out of unknown actors, who are all solid. Johnny Rotten (Anson Boon) is outstanding, he comes across as repulsive and charismatic, and I couldn’t take my eyes off him. Drummer Paul Cook (Jacob Slater) and original Bass player Glen Matlock (Christian Lees) are noteworthy, complementing Steve Jones and Johnny Rotten as a complete mess of a band. They all come from different backgrounds, but their need to shake things up brings them together beautifully.
The scenes at the famous SEX boutique shop are pretty remarkable. The highly influential Vivienne Westwood operated the store, and she is nicely portrayed by (Talulah Riley). Additionally, I enjoyed watching Maisie Williams outside of Game of Thrones, playing a different type of character; she is the most high-profile cast member here. She plays Pamela “Jordan” Rooke, who was a very provocative activist and artist. Her introduction sequence to the series was pretty epic.
Tomas Brodie-Sangster, another Game of Thrones alum, shows up and delivers a brilliant performance (he was fantastic in The Queens Gambit). He plays Malcolm McLaren, the Sex Pistols’ manipulative business manager. We get to see how he puts the band together, similar to how most boy bands are put together.
Pistol is a terrific show. However, things begin to fall apart once the story gets into the relationship between Sid Vicious (Louis Partridge) and Nancy (Emma Appleton). Their tragic story and the controversies surrounding their deaths are poorly executed. It ignores crucial facts that went down and jumps over some critical aspects of Sid and Nancy’s last days.
Nonetheless, This limited series successfully dramatizes one of the most influential cultural movements in history. Punk music changed the music world, and it also changed England culturally. It was fascinating seeing them figure out how to play music together — playing badly at first and eventually finding their musical and creative groove. It is funny, engaging, frantic, and at times dark. Never Mind the Bollocks, indeed.
Three out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿