STREAMING DEVICE OF PAIN
Movie Review – The Dirt
I wasn’t too surprised once I hit the end credits of Netflix’s The Dirt to see the film was directed by Jeff Tremaine, because even though this film is a biopic of the hair metal band Mötley Crüe, it plays out like an extended musical episode of Jackass.
Going a different direction than the Oscar-winning drama Bohemian Rhapsody, The Dirt plays out more like a comedy. It seems accurate to say the characters were over the top, but they are depicting life on the Sunset Strip in the ‘80s, so perhaps there is no other way to portray them.
The film is based on the book of the same name written by the band (and Neil Strauss) that tells their story from four different perspectives (and from a few managerial types) – coming together, jumping to the top of the music charts and hitting the road. The film gives the characters voice overs to employ this similar feeling, they even break the fourth wall occasionally to tell their story.
The Dirt plays into one of my new favorite genres at the movies – “white guys getting in trouble”. Movies like The Hangover, War Dogs and The Wolf of Wall Street fall into this genre, celebrating excess, having fun with it, and watching the consequences fall where they may. The Dirt nails the excess and the fun, but lacks in showing us the fallout. Mötley Crüe trashes hotel rooms and engages in all manner of debauchery at their shows, and Tremaine delivers it all with fast fury, but the script wants to give equal time to things like bassist Nikki Sixx’s heroin addiction and singer Vince Neil’s vehicular manslaughter case. Unfortunately, those scenes aren’t given the weight it feels they’re owed. One of Vince’s big proclamations in the film is “I’m sick and tired of not having fun!”. That’s about as heavy as it gets.
So, this then begs the question, is the ‘80s overindulgence fun? Mostly. To the film’s credit, you never know what’s going to happen next. One of the best scenes that reflects this is drummer Tommy Lee recounting a day on the road in a first-person POV whirlwind – drugs, drumming, girls, it’s a helluva day…until the next one. One of the weirdest is Ozzy Osbourne peeing on the ground at a hotel pool and licking it up. There is a lot of debate online as to whether that scene really happened. If it didn’t, I don’t know why you would pretend it did. It’s not a big win in the world of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, it’s not a this-guy’s-out-of-his-mind party moment, it’s just gross.
The biggest wins are character wins – guitarist Mick Mars is the oldest member of the group and his all-‘round angry demeanor is a great running bit in the film. He had no time for nonsense, mocks Tommy Lee at the drop of a dimebag and all this is compounded by the fact that he’s played by Iwan Rheon, who played Ramsay Bolton on Game of Thrones, so he has a go-to gift for being a prick! Around him, it just seems like everyone’s OK partying and being as wild as possible, which leaves Sixx’s heroin addiction underdeveloped. There was a whole second book by Sixx that apparently detailed his habit expertly. Perhaps a second movie will be required, too.
Elsewhere in the performances, the actors do well with the slight material. Rapper Machine Gun Kelly (Colson Baker) translates well to a rock star and it’s just good to see Daniel Webber again (as Neil) after being so impressive as the ill-fated war vet Lewis Wilson in season one of The Punisher. Second favorite for me (behind Rheon) is David Costabile as Crüe’s put-upon manager, making up for a miscast Pete Davidson as an Elektra records exec.
Overall, The Dirt proves the theory out there that Netflix originals are (again, overall) still missing that intangible…something that relegates them to home viewing. I love that Netflix will greenlight some movies the big studios won’t, but there’s a cinematic element that makes people want to leave the house that for all its flaws, even Bohemian Rhapsody had. Due to the sheer volume of projects Netflix is churning out, they’re bound to get into a rhythm soon with their originals, but until then, The Dirt is only a stop on its way there.
Directed by: Jeff Tremaine
Release Date: March 22, 2019
Run Time: 107 Minutes