Netflix (ie the small screen) is the right platform for THE DIRT - which is based on the autobiography The Dirt: Confessions of the World's Most Notorious Rock Band – because it presents a second-rate true story, which hasn't the charisma or impact worthy of a theatrical release. It is, however, an entertaining time-warp back to the decade of big hair bands, excess and glam rock.
The film is told through the perspectives of each of the band members, their manager and their head of security. And as we journey through their career, from life before formation to the pinnacle of success, we are given a distorted glimpse into the workings of an out of control rock band. It is essentially the Wikipedia equivalent of their story, where notable milestones and incidents are retold while all of the in between stuff is essentially a fabricated patchwork.
I can say unreservedly that I enjoyed THE DIRT, but I also spent the entire time wondering what Mötley Crüe fans would think of it. Those loyal to them will know their story inside and out, and will undoubtedly be frustrated with this recollection. Whereas newcomers to their music, or even the passive fans, will be more inclined to take this story as gospel. And so it's difficult to say who this movie was made for.
Nevertheless the film is colourful, somewhat graphic and a little bit edgy. It depicts a fairytale account of stardom and exploits every cliché under the sun. Director Jeff Tremaine (of Jackass fame) makes his non-Jackass feature film debut and does a decent job of it. He has successfully recaptured the tone of the 80s with all of the glam stylings and spandex misdemeanours. The music is loud and the set-pieces are explosive. Massive balls of fire shoot across the screen during the live performances and copious amounts of drugs are consumed back stage.
Sadly the patchy script and subpar performances weigh the film down, anchoring it to its streaming platform presentation and preventing it from theatrical potential. I have no doubt of the sincere intentions behind telling Mötley Crüe's story, but none of it feels important. The glossy veneer that laminates the screen gives the false impression of parody, as if it were Spinal Tap or Wayne's World, and their heavier themes running throughout the film fail to resonate. Addictions, domestic violence, childhood trauma and death are all present in their story, and yet the script brushes past them all in search of the next big rock moment. No doubt these were the catalyst moments of their lives, and yet none of it matters when there's fans to woo and chicks to bang.
The likeness of the band is adequate, although obtuse enough to be distracting. Band members Nikki Sixx, Tommy Lee, Mick Mars and Vince Neil are played by Douglas Booth, Colson Baker, Iwan Rheon and Daniel Webber respectfully and they do the best they can with what they've got. The routine and derivative script dictates the perimeters of their performances, which keeps them restrained and unable to flex any real dramatic muscle. The supporting cast includes Pete Davidson and David Costabile whose performances should provide significant direction, but ultimately fall by the way side.
Much like Bohemian Rhapsody, THE DIRT is a fairytale version of what really happened. It is more concerned about presenting a rock-n-roll odyssey than it is about depicting the earnest reality of fame. Sure it gets messy, and drug addiction is gross, but the moral of this particular film is that no matter what, through thick and thin.... ROCK AND FUCKING ROLL, MAN!!!!