The Dirt is a terrible movie. Adapted from Mötley Crüe’s group-authored autobiography of the same name, Jeff Tremaine’s film is This Is Spinal Tap without the self-aware irony, a biopic that stumbles into every cliché that Walk Hard skewered over a decade ago. The actors playing Nikki Sixx (Douglas Booth), Tommy Lee (Colson Baker A.K.A. Machine Gun Kelly), Vince Neil (Daniel Webber), and Mick Mars (Iwan Rheon) each play one note — and do so poorly, almost like they’re auditioning for community theater rather than acting in a fairly big-budget studio film. Despite his work with Johnny Knoxville and the Jackass crew (a vibe this was obviously going for), Tremaine, too, proves unable to bring energy to the proceedings, filming every scene with total apathy when he’s not just shamelessly aping Scorsese (Goodfellas in particular). The characters frequently break the fourth wall, addressing the audience directly, as if this is some kind of new, revelatory cinematic technique. We get tired meta-commentary, like characters admitting that, ‘certain scenes didn’t play-out the same way in real life,’ or acknowledging that, ‘certain people didn’t get put in the film for whatever reason.’ It’s just a lame recycling of the same bag of tricks that Adam McKay plundered only a few months ago with his own lugubrious biopic, Vice.
The band cheats on their wives and girlfriends, Nikki descends into heroin addiction, and Vince kills a guy in a drunk driving accident. These are old stories, the stuff of a million episodes of VH1: Behind the Music, and they are boring.
It’s worth asking who thought this was a good idea to begin with? Mötley Crüe was an enormously popular band in its day, and sold a lot of albums — but so did Poison, Def Leopard, etc. This is boomer nostalgia writ large, offering a generation of a certain age the chance to get their vicarious hedonistic thrills by proxy. But despite the ample sex, copious nudity, and drug-fueled hotel room rampages, The Dirt feels shockingly tame. There’s a pat arm-chair psychology to the whole endeavor, the suggestion that these guys weren’t bad, they just had shitty parents or a degenerative disease or they liked fucking too much. Women are accessories in the film, which is probably true to life, but makes for a dull, flat dramatization. The band cheats on their wives and girlfriends, Nikki descends into heroin addiction, and Vince kills a guy in a drunk driving accident. These are old stories, the stuff of a million episodes of VH1: Behind the Music, and they are boring. To top it all off, screenwriter Rich Wilkes uses the death of a beatific child as a kind of moral cleansing for all the band members, as if to say haven’t these men suffered enough? This clears the way for a tired montage of the Crüe’s triumphant reunification, ready to grace the world once again with their presence. The kids are all right! Of course the band produced the film and licensed their own music to the filmmakers, so the entire thing is essentially a commercial for their catalogue (and it worked, apparently, as Crüe record sales spiked after The Dirt was released on Netflix). But don’t be fooled: This a self-congratulatory circle-jerk masquerading as a feature film.
You can currently stream Jeff Tremaine’s The Dirt on Netflix.