SPOILER ALERT: This review contains details of the movie version of The Dirt
Having taken decades to make it to the screen, you kind of knew any adaptation of Mötley Crüe’s 2001 memoir The Dirt was going to be problematic, to put it politely.
Infamy has a tiring tendency to downgrade over time to just being lame, which truly is the greatest praise one can heap on this Jeff Tremaine directed pic that debuted today on Netflix. Perhaps due from the limited requirements of his past gigs helming the often hilarious but plotless Jackass movies, Tremaine delivers set-ups in The Dirt, but no actual story besides an elongated Behind The Music.
The fact is Nikki Sixx, Tommy Lee, ankylosing spondylitis suffering Mick Mars and Vince Neil deserved better. On board as producers, the battle-scarred bass player, drummer, guitarist and singer have earned a movie that confessionally puts it all out there, like their book.
Obviously, they didn’t get it here.
Maybe it’s because versions of the best-selling oral history from the often tragically imbibing or imploding Sunset Strip band and Neil Strauss having passed through many hands and rights holders over the years. A process that seems to, like the drugs sold outside at Crüe shows back in the 80s, inevitably have stomped the kick out of the whole thing.
The slouching result of this Machine Gun Kelly, Daniel Webber, Douglas Booth and Game of Thrones alum Iwan Rheon starrer is more 2001’s sad Rockstar featuring Marky Mark Wahlberg. That’s a long-lost way in the tall grass from the arrogant abandon of Michael Winterbottom’s 24 Hour Party People from 2002 – a more obvious blueprint, if you know what I mean?
With the exception of a mainly POV montage detailing a day on tour for Roadies vet Kelly portrayed Lee, which starts off with the drummer handcuffed to the bed, most of The Dirt is bleached pretty clean from its feral and self-admitted sordid source material. Yes, there is Vince Neil’s drunken 1984 car crash that killed Hanoi Rocks drummer Razzle and the deeply moving death of the singer’s young daughter from cancer.
Those are, however, rare exceptions in this straight to MOR movie that has a limited emotional range outside of party time.
Either in the interest of brevity, legal deniability in the #metoo era or being designated as violent pornography, the Tom Kapinos and Amanda Adelson penned script tosses out the truly terrible things and the interesting things that Mötley Crüe did all those decades ago. The corporate climate seems to be having settled on reducing the tale of The Dirt to mainly a mere collection of drunken shenanigans and an overdose or three.
As well, entertaining intersections in the book with big names and other bands, that don’t involve licking up urine with Ozzy Osbourne, are absent from the flick. So is at least one manager, Mel Gibson, and several wives, including Pamela Anderson.
Along with carving off all the messy or convoluted bits as authorized band biographies like Bohemian Rhapsody and Straight Outta Compton have done in recent years too, The Dirt is also oddly overly lite and visually flat. A truly bizarre prospect when you consider that darkly and deeply talented Get Out cinematographer Toby Oliver was behind the lens here – and how great that Jordon Peele directed Oscar winner looked.
Having seen the band at its peak on the Dr. Feelgood tour and a few more times since, it was always clear the Crüe was never a great band despite having some great tunes. However, what they were extremely entertaining at, even from the cheap seats. was being bad – which, sadly, is what The Dirt the movie is in all the wrong ways.