Mötley Crüe Movie 'The Dirt' Review
The outrageous rise and fall of Mötley Crüe is chronicled in Netflix's The Dirt.
Release Date: March 22, 2019
MPAA Rating: TV-MA
The Dirt on Neflix tells the story of how Mötley Crüe came to be one of the most notorious rock ‘n roll groups in history.
Director: Jeff Tremaine
Screenwriters: Rich Wilkes, Amanda Adelson, Tommy Lee, Mick Mars, Nikki Sixx, Vince Neil, Neil Strauss
Producers: Allen Kovac, Erik Olsen, Julie Yorn
Cast: Colson Baker (Tommy Lee), Douglas Booth (Nikki Sixx), Daniel Webber (Vince Neil), Iwan Rheon (Mick Mars), Pete Davidson (Tom Zutaut)
Editor: Melissa Kent
Cinematographer: Toby Oliver
Production Designer: Melanie Jones
Casting Director: Barbara Fiorentino
Music Score: Paul Haslinger
Since 1981, heavy metal band Mötley Crüe has had hit records, successful tours, and legendary parties. They’ve also had drug overdoses, drunk driving accidents, and debilitating diseases. In 2001, the band teamed up with Rolling Stone/New York Times writer Neil Strauss to chronicle their misadventures in a tell-all book called The Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band. Now, a rocky 18 years later, The Dirt has been made into a movie on Netflix.
The Dirt is a fairly straightforward telling of the legend of Mötley Crüe, beginning with the childhood years of bassist/band mastermind Nikki Sixx (played in different stages of life by Trace Masters from “The Haunting of Hill House,” Halloween’s Vince Mattis, and Douglas Booth from Pride and Prejudice and Zombies). It shows Nikki meeting drummer Tommy Lee (played by rapper/Crüe pal Machine Gun Kelly, otherwise known as Colson Baker from Nerve and Bird Box), the pair hooking up with grizzled guitarist Mick Mars (Iwan Rheon from “Game of Thrones”), and the band recruiting charismatic frontman Vince Neil (Daniel Webber from “The Punisher”). From there, the band goes from half-empty bars to sold-out arenas, and they deal with all of the pressures that come with their new-found fame and fortune.
After a handful of false starts, director Jeff Tremaine, famous for his work with the Jackass crew, was finally tapped to turn the book The Dirt into the movie The Dirt. Screenwriter Rich Wilkes, himself best known for rock and roll comedies like Airheads and The Stöned Age, adapted the book into a wild and crazy (and often tasteless) movie for Netflix. It’s high on camp and melodrama, with graphic representations of sex and drug use. In short, yeah, it’s a Mötley Crüe movie.
Nothing in The Dirt will surprise fans of Mötley Crüe. It follows the history of the band fairly closely, and most of the events in the film are well-documented, if not legendary. The band members themselves served as producers, and everything is based on their book, so even if it’s all told through their “Rock & Roll” filter, The Dirt is how it all went down, more or less. And The Crüe were such outrageous figures in the eighties metal scene, anything is believable.
It’s not all party time, though. The Dirt shifts gears at about the halfway point when the band’s demons start to catch up with them. By then, though, the entire movie is so campy that it’s impossible for the viewer to take it seriously. After watching the young Nikki Sixx get beaten up Mommie Dearest-style for brushing his teeth wrong, how is an audience supposed to get choked up over the death of Vince Neil’s four-year-old daughter? The band becomes a cartoon, and their larger-than-life personas betray them. They are not perceived as human.
Basically, The Dirt is a movie for Mötley Crüe fans, and for Mötley Crüe fans only (of which, in the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I am one). The Dirt is bad, but it’s bad in the best possible way. If you’ve ever wanted to hear the story of The Crüe told by the band members in Jersey Boys/Goodfellas-esque first-person narration, this is your movie. If not, well, Netflix’s The Dirt is still a morbidly entertaining ride.
Score and Soundtrack
It goes without saying that the music in The Dirt is great. Of course, those who are not Mötley Crüe fans may not be as enamored of the tunes as those who are, because the soundtrack is packed with the hits. And, luckily, it’s the first three-ish records that get most of the play, since that’s the time period in which most of the movie takes place. Half the music is taken from the first two Mötley Crüe records (which are essential listening), and the rest are the radio hits that everyone knows by heart, whether they’ll admit it or not.
You’ve got rockers like Live Wire, Shout at the Devil, and Looks That Kill interspersed with slower tunes like Home Sweet Home and Merry-Go-Round. The guys in the band even regrouped to record a few new tunes for the film, including The Dirt (Est. 1981) that features rapper Machine Gun Kelly (who, if you remember from earlier in this review, plays Tommy Lee in the movie), and a rather sterile cover of Madonna’s Like a Virgin. A Mötley Crüe movie should lean heavily on the music, and thankfully, The Dirt does.
It’s hard to tell if the humor in The Dirt is intentional or not – it was written and directed by comedy guys, after all – but the movie is hilarious. Some of it is obvious, like the requisite disastrous first gig, or the Predator “bro-shake” that is shared by the band members before a show. But even the serious moments are silly. Nikki Sixx’s legendary “death” is a perfect example. The bass player overdoses and dies in an ambulance on the way to the hospital. While one of the EMTs is ready to declare the time of death, the other keeps working frantically, explaining to the other that the patient is not going to die on his watch. Sixx is revived, and the paramedic who saved him celebrates with a first pump and a “YES!!,” all while Sixx flops around with adrenaline needles hanging out of his chest. Leave it to a Mötley Crüe movie to make its audience laugh at a drug overdose death. Like it or not, The Dirt is destined to be a camp classic.