Movie Review: The Dirt


After years of development and rumor, Mötley Crüe’s biopic “The Dirt” hit Netflix in late March in a retelling of the shared name 2001 biography directed by Jeff Tremaine.  Daniel Webber plays Vince Neil, Iwan Rheon as Mick Mars, Machine Gun Kelly as Tommy Lee and Douglas Booth as Nikki Sixx. The movie isn’t perfect leaving out several major historical bullet points such as Pamela Anderson and John Corabi’s involvement is left at barely a footnote while the US Festival is ignored. Though you can only cram in so much into two hours. Major events woven and sunken into Crue lore and legend are intact such as Neil’s car wreck with Nicholas “Razzle” Dingley, the tragic passing of Skylar, and Ozzy’s poolside ant and urine episode.

There’s plenty of fictional narrative stitched into the factual fabric and historical noir. With a non-stop supply of booze, broads, drugs and completely irresponsible bad boy bravado to the point of making any viewer question, how the fuck did they survive. In true ‘80s fashion, the party never stopped as the clock ticked from one forgotten all-nighter to the next with ample cocaine, boobs, sex and blowjobs starting 90 seconds in. The on screen depiction is blunt in its portrayal with the predicted critical disgust and fan praise.

One of the heaviest immediate criticisms is its depiction of women devoured like assembly line groupies, treated like meat and discarded as instant nightly afterthoughts. Of course, it probably can’t be argued that, that’s how it happened.

Certain events and timelines were changed for narrative and story-telling. Doc McGhee was fired over an issue at the Moscow Music Peace Festival, not reuniting Sixx with his estranged mother. Neil’s return was not the bar booth chummy “Kumbaya” scene shown but rather a lawyer filled meeting. Bands, fans and industry figures have nitpicked the movie for certain depictions but have also praised performances, namely Machine Gun Kelly capturing his insane energy and aura. Arguably Booth and Kelly carry the most resemblance to the real people.

The film eventually goes dark, capturing some of the worst and most well-known moments, particularly Neil, also showing Sixx’s downward spiral into heroin fueled oblivion.

Mars’ spinal condition is addressed in an early scene but he’s often glossed over portrayed as the dark, brooding and moody guitar genius but dedicated and has a breaking the fourth wall scene, talking to the camera.

Regardless of amounts of celluloid fact and fiction it can’t be denied that “The Dirt” is entertaining, whether intentional or otherwise. There’s not much fluff and zero Hallmark warm fuzzies. Though there is a story-telling structure similar to Behind The Music. They bluntly made the ‘80s theirs leaving a trail of legends and lore fit for “Hollywood Babylon.”

There’s flashback’s to Seattle ’67 with Sixx’s turbulent childhood as Frank Ferrano.  A young drum stick twirling Lee meets him at a restaurant after a London show and the earliest Crüe components are synced. Mars arrives at an early rehearsal taking the spot on the spot.

The fictional narrative continues as they meet Neil at a backyard party covering an unreleased at the time Billy Squier song, rehearsing a (not written yet) “Live Wire” for the first time becoming a band. Neil bangs everything in sight as the band comes up with a name not called Christmas.

They earn early fans at their initial gig besting some rednecks in a crowd fight, eventually graduating to the Troubadour and Gazzarri’s.  A young Tom Zutaut signs them to Elektra and they put Doc McGhee through touring purgatory and nightly hotel hell.

“We got an old man, a kid drummer, a cover band singer and a runaway. Win it all or lose it all, we’re Mötley Crüe!”

The legendary ant, urine pool scene is sadly Ozzy Osbourne’s only appearance. A lot of the bands activities are aptly summarized as Mötley did stupid things because they were Mötley Crüe, including a 24 hour daily dose of destruction and debauchery by Lee, ending in handcuffed rude awakening.

The movie gets dark on December 8, ’84 at Redondo Beach starting with Neil’s accident hallucinating Razzle’s still alive then sees he’s violently dead, in an uncomfortable moment.

Sixx falls in love with heroin, spiraling into addiction with the well documented overdose, death, adrenaline kick-start, shoot up and rehab.

The movie wrenches hearts with foreshadowing as Skylar’s introduced at a “Theatre of Pain” gig, leading to some tear jerking hospital scenes.

The “Dr. Feelgood” era and tension begins. Neil getting a handwritten fax, before departure, is kinda funny and a sign of the time.

The movie ends with them doing the preshow walk to the stage, leaving the audience a final feel good moment.

Whether a written sequel to “The Dirt” ever happens is to be seen. The movie ends abruptly with many fans saying, via social media, they wanted more. A sequel from “Generation Swine” to modern day would certainly be well received.

Unfortunately no DVD release means no extras or behind the scenes features but you can watch it as often as you want on Netflix.  “The Dirt” will satisfy some fans, offend others while leaving many to nitpick the finer points of production. Though an X-Rating might’ve been more appropriate the film is an abashed account of irresponsible hedonism of what they did, got away with and survived, with scars, and what couldn’t be shown can be imagined.  It also shows younger fans and millennials what happened and what they missed. They truly raised the gauntlet of excess and constant temptation with no restraints, making few apologies, as if they would.

 

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