Netflix's The Dirt has all the sensationalist sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll of Mötley Crüe, but little heart despite its attempts to humanize the band.
In the years since Netflix began releasing original movies, the streaming service has produced a wide variety of films. Now, Netflix is venturing into the world of music biopics with The Dirt, based on the 2001 Mötley Crüe memoir The Dirt: Confessions of the World's Most Notorious Rock Band. The book featured interviews with each member of the band - Nikki Sixx, Tommy Lee, Mick Mars and Vince Neil - to paint a picture of the group's rise to fame and subsequent troubles. Now, the four band members additionally serve as co-producers on The Dirt. Netflix's The Dirt has all the sensationalist sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll of Mötley Crüe, but little heart despite its attempts to humanize the band.
The Dirt introduces viewers to the members of Mötley Crüe before they met and formed their now famous band. The film dives into the childhood of Nikki Sixx (Douglas Booth), following him until he eventually lands in the West Hollywood music scene. There, he meets Tommy Lee (Colson Baker aka. Machine Gun Kelly) and the two decide to form a band. They meet Mick Mars (Iwan Rheon) and for their final piece, a lead singer, Tommy suggests a former high school classmate, Vince Neil (Daniel Webber). The band gains notoriety in the local scene, getting the attention of record executive Tom Zutaut (Pete Davidson), who signs them to a deal and their star rises exponentially. However, the band suffers dark days, including Vince getting into a drunk car accident and Nikki becoming addicted to heroin. Ultimately, it becomes clear that the men will struggle to survive their lifestyle, let alone overcome their own troubles to keep Mötley Crue together.
The Dirt was directed by Jeff Tremaine (Bad Grandpa, Jackass: The Movie) and written by Tom Kapinos (Lucifer) and Amanda Adelson (Mid90s), with a screenplay by Rich Wilkes (xXx, Airheads). The film features voiceover narration delivered by each of the actors portraying the four members of Mötley Crüe, offering insight into the events from their perspective. The Dirt mixes this technique with moments when the characters break the fourth wall and speak directly to the viewers, offering commentary with the benefit of hindsight. Altogether, it gives The Dirt the feeling of the story being told to viewers directly from the perspectives of Nikki Sixx, Tommy Lee, Mick Mars and Vince Neil, which puts a memoir spin on the typical biopic format and allows their personalities to shine.
However, while the narrative styles of The Dirt allow for more focus on diving into the lives of these men, the script struggles to form a cohesive, overarching story arc from the various events of Mötley Crüe's life. There's an easy enough throughline to the first act as The Dirt focuses on bringing the band members together, depicting the formation and rise of Mötley Crüe. From there, though, the movie jumps from touring to recording to partying with little connective tissue other than the fact that it all happened. The Dirt similarly struggles to connect the various troubles of the band members, including Vince's accident and subsequent jail time, Nikki's heroin addiction, Tommy's marriage to Heather Locklear (Courtney Dietz) and Mick's struggles with his health. While The Dirt manages to pull it all together in the end, the second and third acts of the film are largely unconnected events loosely strung together with voiceover narration.
As for the actors tasked with bringing such icons as Nikki Sixx and Tommy Lee to life, Booth and Baker manage to nail the ups and downs of the rockers' lifestyles, as well as their personalities. Booth has some of the tougher scenes of the film, depicting Sixx's heroin addiction, but manages to perform those scenes well. Webber's role as Vince Neil similarly has some of the darker moments in The Dirt. He excels in the dramatic scenes far more than in the moments when he's lip syncing to the actual Neil's voice during musical performances. Rheon is the quiet backbone of the movie, providing some much needed deadpan humor and balance amid the larger-than-life antics of his bandmates. Though The Dirt fills out the world of Mötley Crüe, these four are the heart of the movie and they manage to carry that weight well for the most part.
Ultimately, The Dirt is a good enough Mötley Crüe biopic for fans of the band or those interested in their rise to fame and subsequent highly publicized lifestyle. It's by no means a must-see music biopic for those not as interested in Mötley Crüe, but provides some divergence from the formula to be interesting. The exploits of Mötley Crüe are compelling enough to sustain much of the film, and The Dirt paints an honest picture of both the highs and lows of the men's lives. Though it struggles to form a cohesive narrative, the end manages to tie everything together in a satisfying enough manner. For a music biopic, The Dirt is also surprisingly sparse of musical sequences, which seems to be a case of the film focusing more heavily on the band's dynamic and personal lives than the music that was instrumental to Mötley Crüe's rise to fame. Altogether, The Dirt is a decently entertaining look into the lives of Mötley Crüe, but falls well short of being a truly great biopic.
The Dirt is now available to stream on Netflix. It is 107 minutes long and rated TV-MA.
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- The Dirt (2019) release date: Mar 22, 2019