Back in the 80s Mötley Crüe raised hell. The poster band for style over substance, they blazed up and down the Sunset Strip in Las Vegas before taking over the world. On the way, they smashed up hotel rooms, hoovered up all the drugs, and puked over unsuspecting strippers. As a music biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody this ain't.
The Dirt is a Netflix movie based on the best selling autobiographical book of the same name telling the tale of the utter madness that was being in Mötley Crüe. The book was written by all four members of the band. Similarly, this adaptation switches narrative voice between each band member depending on whose story is being told at any given time.
The lead performances are all great. Douglas Booth (Loving Vincent) as bassist Nikki Sixx portrays the blank-eyed self-destructive tendencies in a way that keeps him as the narrative anchor of the movie. Guitarist Mick Mars (Iwan Rheon) is sardonic indifference combined with resignation towards his chronic inflammatory arthritis.
Machine Gun Kelly’s Tommy Lee is just how he is in the book: 100% drummer dudespeak. And handling some heartbreaking closing scenes is Daniel Webber as vocalist Vince Neil. He may be all about the sex at first, but Webber’s coping with the traumatic ‘highlights’ of Neil’s life give him emotional heft.
A nice touch is the forth wall breaking narration. As each character chats away there are asides and acknowledgments. A record label liaison says he found out much later about his girlfriend cheating on him with Neil. Or the movie straight up admitting it left some people out. Similarly when Tommy Lee describes a typical 24 hours on tour, the chaotic non-stop party lifestyle is shot in a fun ‘first-hand’ manner which sucks you into the experience.
The Dirt has some pacing issues. Like most movies of its type, it is trying to nail the big stories and experiences over a long time period in a condensed space. Each band member hits some kind of rock bottom so that they can bounce back and rediscover their camaraderie. But this happens within the final 5 minutes of the movie leaving little time for an emotional coda. However, the initial ‘getting the band together’ is solid plus the mid-section disintegration of group moral is nicely played out.
The Dirt works very well as a streamlined tale of 80s rock excess. Plus it makes you care enough about the band members that it isn’t simply going through the motions. Any lack of depth can be ascribed more to the fact that Mötley Crüe was always better at the party than the music. But, when you cut it all together and snort it in one go, you’ll find yourself throwing the devil horns regardless! \m/ \m/.
Words by Michael Record