The most surprising revelation about this documentary of former Pogues front man Shane MacGowan is that it took this long for someone to finally make a doc on him.
Springing from the same punk scene that gave us the Sex Pistols and The Clash, the complicated and polarizing MacGowan is far more interesting and talented than a figure like the head-scratching glorification of Sid Vicious or even the constant curmudgeon John Lydon. It’s fitting then that Julien Temple, the director behind the classic The Filth And The Fury, would undertake this deeply fascinating dive into MacGowan’s early childhood in Ireland, his move to England with his family and his immersion into the 1970s punk scene. He even retells the incident where he was famously memorialized in a British tabloid after he and a friend were messing around at a Clash gig biting each other and a photographer snapped a pic that ran the next day under the headline “Cannibalism at Clash Gig”.
The doc gives plenty of time dissecting his formation and the seemingly improbable rise of his traditional Irish music/punk hybrid band The Pogues, a group that has inspired hundreds of punk bands in the decades since, everyone from Flogging Molly to The Dropkick Murphys. It’s clear a near lifelong addition to drugs and alcohol have affected MacGowan’s physical health – all of his dialogue is subtitled in the film. Distractingly, his longtime friend Johnny Depp, who produced the film, asks him questions throughout and seems to have adopted an odd Irish accent at times.
Coming in around two-hours, the film is long for a music bio documentary but well worth it, chronicling an equally flawed and talented musician that helped create an entirely new musical genre. An absolutely compelling way to spend two hours.