The Dirt gives Mötley Crüe an undeserved victory lap
Starring Douglas Booth and Machine Gun Kelly.
When Netflix announced that it would be making a film based on The Dirt—the 2001 Mötley Crüe book written by the band's members with Neil Strauss—Georgia Straight music editor Mike Usinger had just one question. Referring to drummer Tommy Lee's unfortunately named girlfriend, Usinger wanted to know if viewers would get to "see Bullwinkle jet her jizz".
Director Jeff Tremaine doesn't make us wait long for the answer: as revealed in the opening scene, it's a resounding, sticky yes. And so the tone is set for the rest of The Dirt, which depicts the members of Mötley Crüe as hormone-driven dick monsters incapable of anything approaching genuine self-reflection. This is true to the source material; in the book, Lee, singer Vince Neil, and bassist Nikki Sixx offer no apologies for their drug-hoovering, groupie-banging ways. The only decent one of the bunch is guitarist Mick Mars, a decade older and wiser than the others, who, as portrayed by Game of Thrones' Iwan Rheon, is a leery observer of the rampant misogyny and self-destruction, given to such deadpan observations as "I happen to have respect for myself and the females of our species, unlike you animals."
Mars is also a more sympathetic figure thanks to his diagnosis of the painful form of arthritis called ankylosing spondylitis, although Tremaine doesn't spend much time on that. He doesn't avoid the dark side of the Crüe's debauchery, though, including Neil's 1984 car wreck that killed Hanoi Rocks drummer Razzle, and Sixx's rapid descent into heroin addiction. The trouble is, the director (best known for his work on various Jackass-related projects, including the surprisingly touching Bad Grandpa) otherwise treats alcohol and narcotic abuse as fodder for bawdy comedy, and he can't quite handle the tonal shifts in a convincing way. Sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll are all good fun until someone gets hurt, and these morons hurt pretty much everyone who came close to them. They don't really deserve the victory lap that The Dirt tries so hard to give them.
The cast is pretty good, though, with rapper Machine Gun Kelly (aka Colson Baker) nailing Lee's goofy energy and general cluelessness, Douglas Booth gamely brooding as Sixx, and Daniel Webber proving far more likeable than the real Neil has ever been. Come award season, though, none of them will pick up the sort of hardware Rami Malek did for his turn as Freddie Mercury, but then again, Bohemian Rhapsody is a better movie than The Dirt by the same order of magnitude that Queen is a better band than Mötley Crüe.