Pistol
GenreBiographical drama
Created byCraig Pearce
Based onLonely Boy: Tales from a Sex Pistol
by Steve Jones
Written byCraig Pearce
Directed byDanny Boyle
Starring
Country of origin
  • United States
  • United Kingdom
Original languageEnglish
No. of episodes6
Production
Executive producers
CinematographyAnthony Dod Mantle
EditorJon Harris
Running time45–56 minutes
Production companies
  • Decibel Films
  • Sir Weighty Tomes
  • Crescent Moon Media
  • Jonesy's Jukebox
  • wiip
  • FXP
DistributorDisney Platform Distribution
Release
Original networkFX on Hulu
Original releaseMay 31, 2022 (2022-05-31)

Pistol is a biographical drama miniseries created by Craig Pearce for FX. The series was announced in January 2021, and was directed by Danny Boyle. It premiered on FX on Hulu on May 31, 2022.[1]

Premise

The six-part series follows Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones and the band's rise to prominence and notoriety.

Cast

Main

Recurring

Episodes

No.TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal release date
1"Track 1: The Cloak of Invisibility"Danny BoyleCraig PearceMay 31, 2022 (2022-05-31)
In mid-1970s economically depressed London, Steve Jones is a homeless young man trying to create a rock band. Vivienne Westwood allows him to borrow edgy clothing from her boutique, SEX. Her romantic and business partner Malcolm McLaren decides to manage the band. Steve pursues Chrissie Hynde, even though she's dating music critic Nick Kent. Chrissie has her own ambitions to be in a band. When Steve breaks into the Hammersmith Odeon, he's caught and pleads guilty to the charges. However, Malcolm testifies that Steve is a promising employee, sparing him from time in prison. Malcolm rebrands the band as "Kutie Jones and his Sex Pistols" and arranges their first concert. During the performance, Steve has an attack of stage fright and runs out of the venue. Steve admits to drummer Paul Cook that he has low self-esteem.
2"Track 2: Rotten"Danny BoyleCraig PearceMay 31, 2022 (2022-05-31)
SEX boutique employee Jordan commutes to work in radical punk fashion and makes conservative people around her uncomfortable. Steve, however, admires her confidence. Malcolm makes Steve the band's new guitarist, and hires the eccentric John Lydon as the new singer. John suggests the band be renamed just "Sex Pistols." Chrissie meets with Mick Jones, but their musical collaboration doesn't pan out. Malcolm leases a warehouse as a rehearsal space on Denmark Street. Steve begins living there and quickly learns to play the guitar. During a band meeting, Steve nicknames John "Johnny Rotten" for his bad teeth. As a result, John asks Sid Vicious to join the band so he'll have a friend to stick up for him. Bassist Glen Matlock arranges a gig at Saint Martin's School of Art, where he's a student. Sid introduces himself to Malcolm, and Vivienne believes he'd be a good addition. The Sex Pistols insist on using their own amp at the gig, angering the headlining band and leading to a brawl. The episode is dedicated to Jordan, who died the month before broadcast.
3"Track 3: Bodies"Danny BoyleCraig PearceMay 31, 2022 (2022-05-31)
The band struggles to come up with new material and is on the verge of breaking up. News presenter Reginald Bosanquet buys racy underwear from SEX. Johnny is determined to quit the band until Vivienne shames him into redoubling his effort. An impromptu jam session results in "Anarchy in the U.K." and the band plays a successful gig at HM Prison Chelmsford. [1] Chrissie arranges a sham marriage with Steve for visa purposes, but he stands her up. John volunteers to take Steve's place, but backs out when Nick gets angry about the situation. Steve and John both encounter a mentally ill fan called Pauline, who was raped by a hospital orderly and carries her aborted fetus in her handbag. John tells her to give the baby a decent burial, and she inspires him to write the lyrics to the song "Bodies".
4"Track 4: Pretty Vaaaycunt"Danny BoyleCraig PearceMay 31, 2022 (2022-05-31)
The band tours Northern England and they bond on the beach at a posh hotel. Glen says he admires Steve for starting the band. Vivienne changes the name of her store to Seditionaries. The band visits the new Glitterbest office, where Malcolm produces their contract with record label EMI. The band and some of their followers spark a national fervor when they curse on air during an interview on Thames Television after being provoked by Bill Grundy. The Sex Pistols contend with physical attacks by angry citizens, and John is slashed with a broken bottle at a club. EMI drops the band, but Glitterbest retains the advance. Malcolm's family is assaulted in their home, leading him to realize the band "matters." The Pistols are banned from playing throughout much of Britain, but they get signed to A&M Records. Malcolm convinces Steve to fire Glen due to him not fitting the band's image. John reveals that Sid Vicious is the new bass player.
5"Track 5: Nancy & Sid"Danny BoyleCraig PearceMay 31, 2022 (2022-05-31)
Britain prepares to celebrate the Queen's 1977 Silver Jubilee. Sid meets Nancy Spungen, and they spiral into a codependent relationship and heroin addiction. The band's first single "God Save the Queen" is released. Johnny is furious because Malcolm named it that; he had insisted on "No Future". The band is dropped by A&M after Sid assaults Bob Harris of The Old Grey Whistle Test. Richard Branson signs the band to Virgin Records, and they record the album Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols. Sid isn't in the studio because he contracted hepatitis. Steve, Paul, Helen, and Chrissie get Nancy high on heroin and put her on a plane back to the United States. Sid is discharged from the hospital, and the band plays a concert on a riverboat to promote the single. When Nancy returns to London, John tells Sid that Steve tried to get rid of her, although he ultimately blames Malcolm. "God Save the Queen" reaches number one on the charts, but radio still won't play it. Chrissie breaks off her relationship with Steve.
6"Track 6: Who Killed Bambi?"Danny BoyleCraig PearceMay 31, 2022 (2022-05-31)
The band tours the American South to raucous results. Sid goes into heroin withdrawal and resorts to self harm. While in San Francisco, John runs out of patience with Malcolm's antics. When Steve won't fire Malcolm, John quits the band. Malcolm promotes Sid to lead singer. Chrissie debuts her new band, The Pretenders. The Sex Pistols work on the film The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle. Sid discovers Nancy has been stabbed to death in their Hotel Chelsea bathroom. He's charged with her murder and released on bail. A year later, in 1979, he dies of a heroin overdose. Steve and Malcolm clash over how things turned out. Steve injects heroin, hallucinates a conversation with John, and they make amends. A flashback shows the band performing at a Christmas Day benefit concert in Huddersfield, Yorkshire for striking firemen and their families. The band is in fine form and show great camaraderie.

Production

The series, created by Craig Pearce, was given a six-episode order from FX in January 2021, with Danny Boyle directing all six episodes. Toby Wallace was cast to play Jones, with Maisie Williams among the supporting cast.[2][3] Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Talulah Riley and Iris Law would join in March as filming began.[4] Production occurred in Hemel Hempstead,[5] Folkestone (and nearby village of Sandgate), Dover, Deal, and London.

The limited series premiered with all 6 episodes on Hulu on May 31, 2022, and Disney+ (Star) in the UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore. The limited series is also planned for Star+ in Latin America and Disney+ (Star) in all other territories.

The concert footage and musical scenes were recorded live, without overdubbing or studio effects,[6] and the actors portraying the Sex Pistols and Chrissie Hynde played the instruments and performed their own vocals. Since they were neophytes (Slater (Cook) had experience fronting bands but not drumming), they had to quickly become proficient.

Wallace (Jones), Slater (Cook), and Chandler (Hynde) had the benefit of meeting with their counterparts. Boon couldn't meet with Rotten due to the latter's disavowal of the project, but he closely studied Rotten's stage presence in order to replicate, and also read the books authored by Rotten. Jones also met with creator and writer Pearce to answer questions and provide his input. Cook was actively involved in the series, and gave his input as needed.[6]

Production Designer Kave Quinn studied Julien Temple's documentary The Filth and the Fury as well as Andrew Marr's BBC docuseries The Making of Modern Britain in order to portray London as it was in the 1970s.[7]

Esquire magazine said that "the commitment to the punk ethos of the Sex Pistols comes through in the making of the film itself." Director Boyle would let the actors run through scenes and entire performances, not using a traditional shot list. He matched the energy of punk by using cinema techniques such as split-screen editing, flashbacks, archival footage, freeze-frames, gaudy dreamscapes, and slow-motion.[8]

Legal battle over music rights

In 2021, while the series was still in production, Sex Pistols frontman, John Lydon criticized the series, branding it as "The most disrespectful shit I've ever had to endure".[9] Former bandmates Steve Jones and Paul Cook sued Lydon to allow Sex Pistols music to be used in the series despite Lydon's objections.[10] They said they had the support of Glen Matlock, the estate of Sid Vicious, and cited a 1998 agreement that allowed a majority decision among band members. On August 23, 2021, it was revealed that Lydon had lost the legal battle.[11]

Reception

Critical response

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the series holds a 54% approval rating based on 24 critic reviews, with an average rating of 6.1/10. The website's critics consensus reads, "Danny Boyle's frenzied direction brings plenty of energy to this punk biography, but the rote conventions of a band's rise and fall make Pistol something of a misfire."[12] On Metacritic, the series has a score of 59 out of 100, based on 23 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[13]

Angie Han from Hollywood Reporter wrote positively that "Pistol does do better than some in breathing a bit of life into that formula, first and foremost through a pair of exceptional performances...by "Anson Boon, the intense 22-year old playing ... Front man Johnny Rotten. If John is its [the show's] soul, Malcolm McClaren is its calculating brain. As played by Thomas Brodie-Sanger, he's a Svengali so relentlessly charming, that...[he] turns manipulation into an art form itself."[14]

Empire's Beth Webb felt that "The performances vary in strength - but the collective scrappy energy of the ensemble under the director's guidance is undeniable.[15]

NME's El Hunt gave a mixed review: "Pistol could've gone further - as much as it explores the pitfalls of rock'n'roll mythology, it occasionally falls into the very same trappings that it tries to scrutinize. But, taken at face value, this is a high-energy and creatively pieced-together look back on how punk rock, with Sex Pistols at the vanguard, swept the UK and beyond.[16]

Jim Sullivan of The Globe wrote that "There's a verisimilitude here. Most of the time, you can suspend disbelief and feel like you're in on the scheme, observing the band as they stumble, scrap and score. ... There was a cartoonish element to the Pistols...But there's a richness and complexity to them as well and Boyle mines that. ... Boyle puts the Pistols at the forefront of the punk movement and I've got no quarrel with that, but he fails, by and large, to place them into the larger context of the punk explosion happening all around England: The Clash, The Jam, The Damned, many more. Yes, you get the sense that there's a wave of punk rock going on, but the Pistols seem insular and far more isolated from it than they were in reality.[17]

Madison Bloom from Pitchfork was negative: "Pistol's script is full of grand manifestos and pep talks that turn flashes of rebellion into rote history lessons ... the screenwriter seems petrified that the audience will miss something...certain phrases are repeated to a comical degree...Boyle commits the same crime of over-explaining... With its ham-fisted dialogue and gaudy editing, the new FX/Hulu show Pistol offers a sanitized kind of anarchy."[18]

Deadline's Dominic Patter asserted that "Even with sneering classics like `God Save the Queen' in the well-crafted soundtrack mix...[Pistol] limps along when it should roar ... [it] gets jammed up in the contradictions of the Sex Pistols where it could have reveled in them with revolutionary enthusiasm and clear eyes."[19]

Further viewing

References

  1. ^ Rice, Lynette (29 March 2022). "Limited Series 'Pistol' About Guitarist Steve Jones Bows On Hulu In May". Deadline. Retrieved 29 March 2022.
  2. ^ Kanter, Jake (11 January 2021). "Danny Boyle To Direct FX Limited Series On Sex Pistols Guitarist Steve Jones; Maisie Williams & Toby Wallace Among Cast". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on 11 January 2021. Retrieved 11 January 2021.
  3. ^ Porter, Rick (11 January 2021). "Sex Pistols Limited Series From Danny Boyle a Go at FX". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 11 January 2021. Retrieved 11 January 2021.
  4. ^ Reilly, Nick (3 March 2021). "Here's the first look at 'Pistol', Danny Boyle's Sex Pistols biopic series". NME. Archived from the original on 6 March 2021. Retrieved 2 April 2021.
  5. ^ Smith, Matthew (20 October 2021). "After Life Series 3, Masters of the Air and Sex Pistols biopic filming handed council six figures after closing town". Hertfordshire Mercury. Retrieved 4 November 2021.
  6. ^ a b Dowling, Amber. "Danny Boyle and `Pistol' Team Talk Real Sex Pistols' Involvement in Miniseries". Metacritic. Retrieved 7 June 2022.
  7. ^ Grobar, Matt. "Danny Boyle & Production Designer Kave Quinn Conjure A London That No Longer Exists With `Pistol' - The Process". Deadline. Deadline Hollywood, LLC. Retrieved 7 June 2022.
  8. ^ Overden, Olivia. "Young Punks: Meet the Cast of `Pistol'". Esquire. Retrieved 7 June 2022.
  9. ^ "John Lydon calls Sex Pistols TV series "disrespectful" | Complete Music Update".
  10. ^ "John Lydon fights use of Sex Pistols songs in 'disrespectful' TV series". The Mercury News. 22 July 2021.
  11. ^ "Sex Pistols win legal fight against Johnny Rotten over songs". TheGuardian.com. 23 August 2021.
  12. ^ "Pistol: Limited Series: Season 1". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 31 May 2022.
  13. ^ "Pistol: Season 1". Metacritic. Red Ventures. Retrieved 31 May 2022.
  14. ^ Han, Angie. "FX's `Pistol': TV Review". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 8 June 2022.
  15. ^ Webb, Beth. "Pistol Review". Empire. Bauer Media Group. Retrieved 8 June 2022.
  16. ^ Hunt, El. "`Pistol' Review: fast-paced biopic captures the Sex Pistols story". NME. NME. Retrieved 8 June 2022.
  17. ^ Sullivan, Jim. "`Pistol': Fun and Nasty". Book and Film Globe. The Globe. Retrieved 8 June 2022.
  18. ^ Bloom, Madison. "Danny Boyle's Sex Pistols Miniseries is Punk Rock Paint-by-Numbers". Pitchfork. Retrieved 8 June 2022.
  19. ^ Patter, Dominic. [htttps://deadline.com/2022/05/sex-pistols-tv-review-danny-boyles-pistol-steve-jones-fx-hulu-1235056035 "`Pistol TV Review: Danny Boyle and FX's Sex Pistols Miniseries is More Junk Than Punk"]. Deadline. Retrieved 8 June 2022.