With the near billion dollar success of last year’s Bohemian Rhapsody, Netflix has thrown themselves into the hat of musical biopics with The Dirt. Based on the tell all book from the notorious 80’s band, The Dirt is a no-holds barred look at Motley Crue. The film shows the struggle of each band member and the life behind the music. With each member of the band on as producers, could the film be a faithful representation of the bad boys of rock?
The Dirt – Synopsis
Nikki Sixx (Douglas Booth), born Frank Feranna Jr., has his mother arrested under false pretenses that she had stabbed her son. The bassist spends the next decade as a loner and a drifter. He makes his way to Los Angeles where he meets drummer Tommy Lee (Machine Gun Kelly). The two send out an ad seeking a guitar player, to which Mick Mars (Iwan Rheon) answers. With only a lead singer left to be found, Lee calls upon his former classmate Vince Neil (Daniel Webber) to fill the spot.
After brainstorming a name, the crew decides upon calling themselves Motley Crue. The band is almost an overnight success after participating in a brawl at their first gig. They are signed by Elektra Records after a string of successful shows. The band begins their first tour with “The Prince of Darkness” Ozzy Osbourne (Tony Cavalero).
Motley Crue becomes the band that men want to be, and who women want to be with. Nikki and Tommy begin a binge of drug and alcohol fueled parties. The entire band lives the rock star life to it’s fullest. Then the band’s world comes crashing down when Vince Neil is arrested for vehicular manslaughter. Vince spends the following months in prison and rehab.
The band begins to fall apart after his arrest. Nikki is pronounced dead from a heroin overdose, only to be revived minutes later by paramedics. Tommy is divorced by supermodel wife Heather Locklear (Rebekah Graf). Motley Crue rode the high life until their entire world came to a screeching halt.
What I Liked
The film is an overall encapsulation of the life of Motley Crue. They were the bad boys of rock and roll. The drug and alcohol fueled antics of the band are legendary in the rock world. The film does not hold back in this area. Every antic and every personality trait of the band members is on full display.
The strongest aspect I give to the film is when we follow Nikki Sixx. Perhaps one of the most tragic figures in rock, Sixx’s story is full of heartbreak. Sixx’s heroin diaries are some the best acted scenes in the film, as well as the most intriguing story-line. The film could have benefited from focusing on Sixx. A task that is difficult in a film wanting to tell the entire bands story.
The film had a very consistent flow to it’s story. I knew when to cut back to the music and focus on the group together. The film also knew when to focus on the individuals. Machine Gun Kelly stands out with the energy he gives to Tommy Lee. After Bird Box and now The Dirt, MGK has put himself in a situation for a bright career in Hollywood.
What Could Have Been Improved
The Dirt suffers from what I like to call “The Netflix format”. There is no distinction in this film from that of other Netflix originals. Each of these films uses the same lighting techniques and features a lack of artistic distinction. Netflix films like Roma and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs are distinct in their mise en scene. The Dirt lacks this creativity.
Many times throughout the film characters will break the fourth wall, including narrations from each member. This fourth wall breaking is jarring at many times, and is used as a crutch for the film to continuously lean on. This narrative choice was a misstep for former Jackass and Bad Grandpa director Jeff Tremaine.
The film also suffers from what many biopics also suffer from. Too much story. The Dirt tries to cover over a decade of stories in under two hours. A task that is impossible to full encapsulate. The story would have been better served focusing on a specific period of time with the band in which they were at their highest highs and yet at their lowest lows.
The Dirt – Final Thoughts
Much like the music of Motley Crue, The Dirt is loud and in your face but lacks substance. The film falls into the narrative stranglehold that biopics usually fall into. The lack of character development and plot make this nothing more than a fun ride with the band. The casting for the film suits the structure of the film, but overall the film needed something to kickstart it’s heart.
Overal Score 2.5/5