Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds with Shane MacGowan
Time Out says
The Pogues main man is on typically spiky/slurry form in this patchy rock doc
Even if he hadn’t written A Rainy Night in Soho, The Broad Majestic Shannon and The Sickbed of Cúchulainn, there’d be plenty to mythologise about Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan. Born on Christmas Day, drinking and smoking by the age of five, thrown out of Westminster public school for drug dealing etc etc. Julien Temple’s film is a pretty standard biog interspersed with some frankly crappy animations. As in The Great Rock ’n’ Roll Swindle, you feel he wants to be mates with his subject more than say anything interesting about them. Luckily, MacGowan is there to disrupt that.
The bits about his childhood stays in Ireland and his hatred of the ‘wanker’ British are well told, as is MacGowan’s revelation at the hands of punk. Here he is, the ‘face of 1977’, on film pogoing at the front of early Pistols’ gigs, in the papers getting bloodily bottled and finally connecting the rage and frustration of punk with the alienation of the Irish, especially the reviled London Irish. ‘The Pogues could never have happened in Ireland,’ someone observes. ‘The Pogues had to happen from the diaspora.’ All this stuff is great, and it makes a good case for MacGowan – along with bands like The Slits and The Raincoats – being one of the most interesting things to emerge from punk.
But then, but then… Like lots of career drunks, MacGowan is a dickhead and attracts other dickheads. There are horrible appearances from Johnny Depp, who also produces the film, and Gerry Adams, slimy and toothy as ever. You wonder how much MacGowan has in common with these people and whether – like his idol Brendan Behan in New York – he is trading on his ‘Irishness’ and pro-IRA credibility for free drinks and attention, even though he hasn’t produced anything good in donkey’s years. ‘I’m glad to see you’re hanging in there,’ says Adams, as a sheet-white ghoul with freakishly attenuated nicotine-browned claws slowly swivels its eyes to meet his and he realises he is in a hell of his own creation where the proud Sons of Erin are all goblins.
Not a crock of gold. But not a complete crock of the other, either.
In cinemas in the US and UK Dec 4. Available to stream in the US Dec 4 and in the UK Dec 7.