In Review

Pistol review: Danny Boyle’s sanitised but watchable punk drama

Disney+ is show ‘so lacking in anarchic spirit it could be a Coldplay biopic’

“A drama about the Sex Pistols should be a riot,” said Anita Singh in The Daily Telegraph. But Danny Boyle’s new six-part series (starring Anson Boon, Louis Partridge, Toby Wallace and Jacob Slater as the band’s classic line-up) is “so lacking in anarchic spirit that it may as well be a Coldplay biopic”.

Based on the memoir of guitarist Steve Jones, it ticks off “all the staging posts in the Sex Pistols story – first meeting with Malcolm McLaren, first gig, the infamous Bill Grundy interview, the jubilee boat trip”. And as a “visual accompaniment to a Wikipedia entry”, it would be “passable”, but it’s simply too “Disney-fied” to have the impact the Pistols’ story deserves.

It’s true that the famously unwashed punks are often shown “bathed in a soft, ethereal glow”, said Dan Einav in the FT. Good job then that the acting is “pitch-perfect”. Boon, in particular, brings “an electrifying volatility” to the role of John Lydon, while imbuing him with vulnerability. It’s in reframing the “self-proclaimed ‘fucked four’” as “lost children” that the series is subversive.

I spent the first ten minutes thinking Pistol was “dreadful”, said Hugo Rifkind in The Times. Mainly that was due to the dialogue. “It’s no good being like other bands, we gotta be like us!” says one of the Pistols. “Wot, four broke working-class kids who can’t play for shit?” comes the reply. My God, I thought, “Could this really be Danny Boyle?”

Still, something must have gone right, as I only planned on watching the first episode, yet “I was still on my sofa four hours later”.

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