Published Mar 21, 2019Mötley Crüe were a tacky band, and here's a tacky movie about them.
The Dirt is based on the salacious memoir of the same name, and it features every bit as much sex and drugs as you'd expect from a movie about '80s hair metal. Let's just say there's a graphic squirting scene within the first minute.
This authorized biopic begins with a self-congratulatory monologue about how much the '80s sucked, framing Mötley Crüe as rebels against the era. It's an ironic claim, given that the rest of the film illustrates all the ways in which they embodied the worst clichés of the decade, from the materialistic excess to the pompous arena rock shows.
The story traces the band's formation through their heyday, from when easy-go-lucky drummer bro Tommy Lee (Colson Baker, aka Machine Gun Kelly) meets brooding bassist Nikki Sixx (Douglas Booth). The youthful rhythm section recruits comparatively wizened guitarist Mick Mars (Iwan Rheon of Game of Thrones), while perpetually horny sleazeball Vince Neil (Daniel Webber) ditches his cover band to be their lead singer.
The first hour-plus is basically one big party montage, with countless lines of cocaine done off countless asses. From close up shots of needles entering veins, to a wasted Ozzy Osbourne (Tony Cavalero) drinking piss off the ground, little is left to the imagination. Every character is a cartoonish self-parody: Tommy Lee is a yuck-yucking goofball, Vince Neil is a preening pretty boy, label rep Tom Zutaut (Pete Davidson) is an ineffectual dork, and so on.
Even when Nikki Sixx overdoses and is briefly declared dead, it's presented as a wacky caper with a cackling EMT who gleefully jams adrenaline needles into the bassist's heart.
The Dirt is fairly entertaining as a vapid raunch-com about boys who like to rock and also fuck. Unfortunately, it spoils the party with ham-fisted attempts to get serious in the final scenes. There's lots of sermonizing about the perils of addiction — a worthy message, but one that's totally undermined by the way the rest of the movie glorifies drugs.
Director Jeff Tremaine has previously helmed four Jackass movies, so that should give you some idea about his aptitude with serious emotional material. With shock-value stunts and oafish dialogue, the whole movie is basically Jackass Presents: Mötley Crüe.
The most tone deaf moment comes during a climactic scene in which Vince Neil's young daughter dies of cancer, which is bizarrely intercut with shots of Nikki Sixx negotiating ownership of Mötley Crüe's music from the label. Maybe they're trying to suggest that their music is like their child, and with death comes rebirth in the form of art? Maybe they're commenting on the fickleness of fortune, and that professional triumph sometimes coincides with personal tragedy? Or maybe this movie has about as much emotional nuance as a Mötley Crüe song.