No movie could ever fully capture the insanity that was Motley Crue, but The Dirt comes about as close as possible. This Netflix original provides a fast-paced sprint through the heavy metal band's career, hitting all the high (and low) points along the way. If it never goes into great depth on anything, the film at least entertains as a portrait of the rock-and-roll lifestyle taken to absurd extremes.
To the degree that there's a central character, it would be Nikki Sixx (Douglas Booth). Early scenes show him forming a band with Tommy Lee (Colson Baker, better known as rapper Machine Gun Kelly), Mick Mars (Iwan Rheon), and Vince Neil (Daniel Webber). They quickly get signed to a deal by a record company executive, Tom Zutaut (Pete Davidson), and start climbing the charts.
The Dirt documents all the events you would expect it to: Tommy Lee's romance with Heather Locklear (Rebekah Graf); Vince's arrest for a drunk driving accident that killed his friend, Hanoi Rocks drummer Nicholas “Razzle” Dingley; the time Ozzy Osbourne snorted a line of ants in front of them; and the announcement that Sixx died of an overdose before being resuscitated. Of course, the drugs, the sexcapades, and the decadence are also accounted for.
Motley Crue was such an infamously out-of-control band that a traditional biopic wouldn't seem right. Director Jeff Tremaine (the Jackass series) takes a smart approach, staging everything in a very over-the-top style that, in the first half, borders on comical. Characters intermittently break the fourth wall to comment on what's being depicted, or, in certain cases, to tell us when something has been slightly fictionalized. It's wickedly funny to see how thoroughly the band embraces hedonism, too. Obviously, such behavior is indefensible, yet haven't we all wondered what it would be like to live without rules? The Dirt offers an up-close look.
The second half gets a little darker, as addictions and personal issues drive a wedge between Motley Crue's members. This makes for a nice contrast, as it shows how a hard-driving, party-all-the-time existence comes with a cost. You simply can't go on that way forever. Even in these more dramatic sections, The Dirt maintains its break-neck speed, capturing how the inevitable downward spiral sucks people under just as rapidly as the wild life elevates them.
All the actors playing Crue members are terrific, imbuing them with individual personalities while simultaneously hinting at a shared mindset. Motley Crue's music is well-used, with specific songs selected to compliment the action. Glossy cinematography and slick editing additionally help create the film's vivid portrait of rock stardom.
The Dirt is reminiscent of Bohemian Rhapsody in its “let's hit all the major bases” approach. You won't necessarily walk away with any new insights into Motley Crue. It certainly is a fun ride, though.
out of four
The Dirt is rated TV-MA for language, graphic sexuality/nudity, and drug use. The running time is 1 hour and 47 minutes,