Movie Review: ‘The Dirt’
Plot: Based on the 2001 biography by Neil Strauss, The Dirt tells the story of the rise of Motley Crue and their four members Nikki Sixx (Douglas Booth), Tommy Lee (Machine Gun Kelly), Vince Neil (Daniel Webber), and Mick Mars (Iwan Rheon). The definitive glam metal band of the 80s “Me” decade, Motley Crue enjoyed multiple hit songs, a massive fan following, and reveled in some of most ridiculous and over the top debauchery in the history of rock and roll.
Review: Although I grew up in the 1980s and 90s, Motley Crue was never my jam. A glam metal hair band that always seemed more about having a good time than making music, I never saw the appeal. Yet, the outrageous stories surrounding the band were fodder for a juicy music biopic. It was only a matter of time before their tale came to light and sure enough the streaming service Netflix picked up the distribution rights last year. Ultimately a streaming service acquiring this film was the right move because there is no way in Hell this movie would have been able to be released in theaters without an NC-17 rating. At the same time I don’t think a tamed down version of Strauss’ book would have done the band or their story justice.
The Dirt sets the tone in the opening scene when a woman…how shall I put this…has an extremely “liquid” reaction after an encounter with drummer Tommy Lee. It’s one of those scenes where you kind of go, “OK so this is the kind of movie they’re going for.”
Director Jeff Tremaine’s music biopic leans heavily into Motley Crue’s debauchery whether it’s Ozzy Osbourne snorting a line of ants and then licking up his own urine by a pool, or countless sex scenes with groupies. In a sense it’s kind of the anti-Bohemian Rhapsody. Whereas Bohemian Rhapsody focused a lot more on the music than the behind-the-scenes antics, The Dirt showcases the craziness of the band, at times too much.
It’s not a coincidence that Tremaine also directed the Jackass movie, as The Dirt often feels like a series of stunts perpetuated by Johnny Knoxville and his group of idiots. However, in this instance these idiots happen to be Motley Crue. The film itself is shot at an often frenetic pace that barely takes a second to breathe. Obviously Tremaine means to reflect the break-neck pace at which Motley Crue lived there lives, but it’s often exhausting to watch.
Just like in the book, many of the stories in Tremaine’s film are told from the perspective of individual band members at various times. The most notable sequence involves a day in the life of Tommy Lee, waking up at 5pm to find himself handcuffed to his hotel bed only to find himself in the exact same situation twenty-fours later. Machine Gun Kelly it must be said is excellent here playing up Tommy as a lovable goof. Unfortunately, that’s at odds with some of the less than squeaky-clean things he and the other band members do. (One incident on a bus comes out of nowhere and then is never addressed again.) Yet Tremaine never tries to present Motley Crue sans warts. These are guys that did a lot of bad shit and to present that in any other manner than what Tremaine did would be disingenuous.
The other actors do an admirable job in their individual roles. Booth is phenomenal as bassist, songwriter, and heroin addict Nikki Sixx, the band member we get the most backstory on. A flashback scene with his Mom is particularly well-done and harrowing. Rheon (Ramsay Bolton of Game of Thrones fame) is kind of the straight man of the bunch. Grumpy and suffering from a degenerative back problem, his Mick Mars is the elder, jaded statesman of the bunch and his interactions with Tommy Lee had me grinning. Of the four I liked Webber’s performance as Vince Neil the most. The plotline involving his young daughter was particularly poignant. Furthermore, the chemistry between the actors works perfectly.
As a music biopic however, The Dirt contains all the familiar beats. Band gets together, has success, fights, gets involved in drugs, has a falling out, gets back together–we’ve all seen it before. It’s nothing new but then again the source material is the source material. Just because it’s a rock and roll band’s fall from grace doesn’t make it any less interesting. Indeed the film itself is quite entertaining and fans of the band’s music will love the renditions of “Girls, Girls, Girls,” “Shout at the Devil,” and others.
While far from being a groundbreaking music biopic in the vein of Oliver Stone’s The Doors, I dare say I liked The Dirt far more than I was expecting to and it’s ultimately more enjoyable than Bohemian Rhapsody. If you want an entertaining way to kill two hours you could do a lot worse than The Dirt.
My rating System:
0-1 God Awful Blind Yourself With Acid Bad
2 Straight Garbage
4 Sub Par
8 Very Good
10 A Must See
The Dirt: 7/10
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