When Bohemian Rhapsody hit close to a billion dollars at the box office (despite what critics say about it), it paved the way for many other music biopics to come forward and tell their stories. A Baz Luhrman movie about Elvis Presley is in the works, and Dexter Fletcher (the real director of Bohemian Rhapsody) takes on Elton John in the upcoming Rocketman. Also in the mix is the Mötley Crüe biopic The Dirt, a crazy and loud movie fitting with the band it follows, but also as obnoxious as any member.
I would like to preface this review by saying I’m not a big fan of Mötley Crüe, though I do listen to them when they’re on the radio. To me, however, they’re just another band from Los Angeles who likes to party and be with tons of girls, which is a major problem with the film. The Dirt, based on their autobiography, feels like it could’ve been about any other big band in the 80s. A movie about Guns n’ Roses could’ve followed this exact script if a few names were changed around.
The movie opens at a party following one of Mötley Crüe’s shows, in which we’re introduced to the band. There’s vocalist Vince Neil, guitarist Mick Mars, drummer Tommy Lee and bassist Nikki Sixx, who serves as the heart of the story. The party also introduces us to the main problems of the movie: the script. The dialogue is pretty cheesy in the beginning, opening with Nikki Sixx talking about how the 1980s sucked. All four members share narration, though Sixx has the bulk of the dialogue.
The story, as mentioned before, could be about any big rock band. It talks about their life before the band, the early years of their work, and the band trying to keep it together amid all the excess. What sets this apart from the Queen movie from a few months ago is that it starts off like a crazy comedy. The band members gets into hijinks throughout the first half of the movie. They trash hotel rooms, get into fights with the crowd as early as their first show, and it gets even crazier in a scene where they’re hanging out with Ozzy Osbourne.
The second half takes a sharp turn about halfway through the film, suddenly getting more dramatic. One night in 1984, Vince Neil gets into a car accident with Hanoi Rocks drummer Razzle. Later on through this second half, Nikki Sixx gets addicted to heroin and nearly dies of an overdose. When he gets revived, he forces the others to go through rehab with him. This causes friction among the band, but also spawns their best album, Dr. Feelgood. Neil eventually quits the band and gets word that his young daughter has cancer.
It makes sense that the director, Jeff Tremaine, has made a career exclusively through Jackass movies. The first half has all the loose insanity of one of those movies. It’s when it takes a turn into dramatic territory that makes it all fall apart. I would’ve been fine with a crazy movie about the rise of a great rock band, but even if it is true to their story, the dramatic elements bog it down quite a bit.
I can’t recommend this movie, but if you want a good story about Mötley Crüe, I would recommend Nikki Sixx’s memoir The Heroin Diaries: A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star. It follows a year in Sixx’s struggle with heroin addiction and also created a spin off album with his other band, Sixx:A.M.
As for this movie, much like Bohemian Rhapsody, anything mentioned in the movie will be common knowledge to die hard fans.