Movie review: The Dirt

The Dirt – Looks That Kill video

When the members of Mötley Crüe released their tell-all biography, “The Dirt”, I wouldn’t have believed they’d ever make a movie out of it. But Netflix did it, and their tale of excess, debauchery and loud rock now lives on screen, as personified by actors Douglas Booth (Nikki Sixx), Iwan Rheon (Mick Mars), Daniel Webber (Vince Neil) and Machine Gun Kelly as Tommy Lee. Machine Gun (I’m guessing that’s not his legal name) also made an appearance on one of the four new tracks the band recorded for the movie’s soundtrack.

The book was a very entertaining read, the ultimate tale of rock decadence, but littered with inaccuracies and exaggeration, being often compared to the controversial Led Zeppelin bio “Hammer of the Gods”. And in the “#metoo” era, it’s quite a challenge to pin your movie on a band who sang “Girls passed out / Naked in the back lounge / Everybody’s gonna score” (‘Saints of Los Angeles’, 2008).

In that regard, the movie’s like the book: a lot of fun, riddled with inaccuracies and mildy offensive at time. Some of the more egregious examples in the movie include manager Doc McGhee saying he’s managed KISS and Skid Row although he managed both years later than the timeframe of the scene, and young Nikki Sixx having a KISS poster in his room in 1973, despite the fact that their debut record came out in 1974.

The Dirt

The timeline around the birth and death of Vince’s daughter Skylar is also all over the place, with his wife Sharise being shown pregnant on the night Vince killed Razzle while driving drunk, in 1984. Skylar was born in 1991 in reality, and I believe Vince hadn’t even met Sharise at the time.

But all biographical movies re-arrange facts for the sake of moving the story along, even critically acclaimed movies like the recent “Bohemian Rhapsody”, so I was willing to let a lot of that slide. And the movie is indeed an interesting look at one of the most excessive bands of the 80’s (and look out for cameos by Slash, David Lee Roth, and a full scene with the Prince of Darkness himself, Ozzy Osbourne).

The recreations of events range from pretty accurate to caricature. The four actors do a good job of mimicking the band’s mannerisms, especially Machine Gun Kelly for Tommy Lee, even though at times he seems to be channelling Shaggy instead. The tone of the movie is pretty juvenile, and it feels like the band members telling their story, with each memory starting by “You’ll never believe what we did next”.

The movie’s entertaining for sure, but it’s definitely for existing Mötley Crüe fans. I can’t imagine many people will be driven to discover the Crüe with this film. The unintended conclusion I took from the movie was more like a confirmation of what I felt already: ‘The Dirt’ is the story of four morons who happened to make some really good music. They live in a perpetual state of adolescence, refusing to own up to their mistakes or feel penance for the people they’ve hurt along the way.

It’s a good thing the music kicks ass so much. Except for the 4 new songs on the soundtrack. And especially not that horrible cover of “Like a Virgin”. Yes, Mötley Crüe covered Madonna, and it’s just as bad as you’d expect.

The movie is now streaming on Netflix. Despite its flaws, it’s worth watching.

The Dirt
Jean-Frederic Vachon
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