Sometimes you’ve got to see it, to actually believe it.
Please make no mistake, The Dirt is an over the top outlandish piece of trash cinema; but since it’s the cinematic adaption of the story of one of the most excessive rock bands to ever step foot on a stage in Motley Crue…what the fuck else is it supposed to be? And to the film’s credit, it actually owns its hyperbolically ridiculous narrative for most of the film.
Based on The Dirt; the autobiography written by all four members of Motley Crue; Vince Neil, Tommy Lee, Nikki Sixx and Mick Mars, this is film is the unabashed tale of the rise, fall and subsequent rise of one of the most notorious rock and roll bands in the history of modern music.
If you are expecting a dramatic nuanced tale of a very influential band in modern music history…just get the fuck out of here right now. The Dirt is the height of cinematic nonsense and it’s supposed to be. I don’t care if it’s true or not, and neither should you because if you lean into the self-referential and debaucherous nature of the story, it’s actually kind of fun and only falls apart in those maudlin moments when they all realize that they can’t drink, do drugs and have sex 24/7/365.
It’s really no surprised that director Jeff Tremaine cut his teeth doing the Jackass movies and that actually works to his benefit here. The narrative is fast paced and it doesn’t drag for a single second as it straps us in for a roller coaster ride of excess which while it is incredibly dated and vacuous, it allows us access to that mindset which quite frankly is more than a little insane. Tremaine is strong at shoot it all well and cutting it together in a music video style fashion which also plays into the era that it is recapping.
I’m not entirely sure that even Motley Crue themselves, even in the more serious moments of their story take all of this all that seriously and that really is the key to the entire thing. You’ve really just got to roll with the nonsense that is being thrown on to the screen at a break neck pace and embrace it as characters in the narrative break through the fourth wall to deliver side notes on how crazy this time in their lives was.
To the film’s credit as well it never puts all that much effort into any kind of character study about the band members. If you try and apply logic to any aspect of this story it removes the hedonistic, fly on the wall thrill that comes these stories that the band themselves will undoubtedly insist is true. This film is solely about the ride to fame and the trappings that come with it when you refuse to take a second and come up for air from it. The film stumbles when it gets serious and kind of maudlin but it all happens so fast that you kind of don’t care by the time it all wraps itself up.
You will recognize a couple of familiar faces in the film with Machine Gun Kelly, Douglas Booth playing Tommy Lee and Nikki Sixx respectively but Daniel Webber as Vince Neil really fades into the background of it all and only Iwan Rheon really works well giving off the disconnected I don’t give a fuck vibe as Mick Mars. There’s some fun pop in smaller parts as well with Kathryn Morris playing an early girlfriend and Pete Davidson as a clueless A&R record exec who manages to add some fairly deadpan humor to it all.
In our politically correct pop culture landscape these days, I can easily understand how a story like The Dirt feels like its being told on another planet. However if you lived through the height and the heyday of Motley Crue, you know damn well that even if this entire book (and now film) is just hyperbolic bullshit, you are certain that Vince Neil, Tommy Lee, Nikki Sixx and Mick Mars were operating like four bulls that just got locked in a china shop the second they found an ounce of fame. All they knew was the anarchy that was sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll…and it’s amazing that they’re actually still alive to tell the tale in a film that can’t classic be defined as ‘good’ but also demands to be seen at the exact same time.
- Genre: Bio Pic
- Release Date: 3/22/2019
- Directed by: Jeff Tremaine
- Starring: Douglas Booth, Machine Gun Kelly
- Written by: Amanda Adelson, Rich Wilkes
- Studio: Netflix
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