Movie Review of Motley Crue: The Dirt

Image source: 2Loud2OldMusic

Distributor: Netflix
Production Company: 10th Street Entertainment
Director: Jeff Tremaine
Producer(s): Allen Kovac, Erik Olsen, Julie Yorn, Rick Yorn
Scriptwriter: Rich Wilkes, Amanda Adelson 
Main Cast: Douglas Booth, Iwan Rheon, Colson Baker, Daniel Webber
Released: March 22nd 2019
Running Time: 108 minutes
Certificate: 18

Landing in the months that separated Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocket Man, The Dirt truly rode the popularity wave of classic rock biopics in the 2018-19 time frame. The Dirt is a cinematic adaptation of the 2001 best selling ‘warts and all autobiography of the same name. Depicting the formation and evolution of notorious ‘80s rock group Motley Crue as they face the trials and tribulations of a rock and roll lifestyle. Read on for our comprehensive movie review of Motley Crue: The Dirt.

With a cast and production team filled with famous and popular names. This is not limited to director Jeff Tremaine (famous for the Jackass franchise) and Tommy Lee’s portrayal by rapper Colson Baker (better known as Machine Gun Kelly). The Dirt is a culmination of grotesque, shock-value gags, gluttonous rockstar ‘indulgence’ and dark, personal struggles of addiction and loss.  

This movie review of Motley Crue: The Dirt will break down the main components of the film and a little deeper analysis too.  It is highly unlikely to receive many Oscar nominations, but that would not be ‘the Motley Crue way’, would it? 

Image source: IMDb

Synopsis

The story begins with a young Franklin Carlton Ferrana, Jr (Nikki Sixx) falsely reporting his alcoholic mother to the police to escape the toxicity of his upbringing. Fast-forward ten years and we see Franklin Jr at a Los Angeles courthouse, setting alight to his old name and ID and with it, the painful memories of his complicated childhood. With his new stage name and purpose, he was set. 

Elsewhere we have the stark-contrast family setting; the lovably slaphappy Tommy Lee (MGK) is with his loving family before heading out to a local show, featuring Nikki Sixx’s band. Unbeknown to Tommy, he would recruit Sixx later that night in a local diner. After adding the comically old and bitter Mick Mars to their ranks, they needed a singer. And Tommy knows just the guy. 

A “skinny, blonde dude” is the preference and Vince Neil; a party covers band singer fits the mould. After a hilarious audition where the planets seemed to align, Motley Crue would take the Sunset Strip by storm. Check out a clip from that scene here. The shows and crowds grew in stature, as did the partying. And not before long, they found themselves signed to Elektra Records and would be catapulted into the stratosphere. 

While on tour with Ozzy Osbourne, the legendary singer heeds the warning of ‘overindulgence and its long-term ramifications. Right before snorting a line of ants off the floor himself. Ultimately, Ozzy’s advice falls on deaf ears as the juvenile rockstars choose the opposite approach. Motley Crue proves the English rock icon to be right. 

It all Comes Crashing Down…

Later at a house-warming party, Vince is driving heavily under the influence, resulting in a head-on collision and the death of Hanoi Rocks drummer, Razzle. Vince is subsequently charged with manslaughter. While this meant a stint of sobriety for Vince, the rest of the band slipped further into substance-laced debauchery. As the tour dates roll by, they enter a daily cycle of ‘wake up-party-play show-party-pass out repeat. 

While this sequence is crammed full of morbid humour and light-hearted self-destruction (if that was ever ‘a thing’?), the lifestyle begins to take its toll on Nikki. His current love affair with heroin hits a new low when he is resuscitated by two shots of adrenaline to his heart. This rock-bottom event inspires the band to enter rehab as they trade nightclubs and drugs for counselling sessions and coffee. The pressure of this results in Vince quitting the band, being replaced by the underwhelming John Corabi.  

Coinciding with the band’s downfall in commercial success, Vince faces the crushing loss of his daughter, Skylar. Devastating circumstances have a knack for bringing people together, as is the case with ‘Crue. They reunite in solidarity and put their differences aside to continue touring and releasing music for a further twenty-five years. 

Image source: Classic Rock

Analysis

Although The Dirt can be viewed as a series of glamorised, over-the-top scenes of cocaine-laced rock and roll depravity, with adolescent gag-humour crudely underlining every moment. It is more varied than that. Firstly, a biopic surrounding Motley Crue will inevitably feature these elements but they also stand to represent something deeper. 

 The Dirt is a coming-of-age story of four individuals who through struggles, laughs and losses find themselves and reach varying levels of maturity. This is reflected in how the opening and closing halves of the film are contrasted. This coincides with the dramatic change in mood; relationships and personal challenges begin to arise.

The first section is light-hearted, ludicrous and laughable, even when dealing with difficult subject matters. The latter half is much darker; the fart-joke humour rapidly dries up and mature themes of death, morality and addiction become prevalent. As the band age, their youthful naivety fades as they encounter ‘real-world’ problems. The party must end one day, right? 

The film does fall a victim to the cliché of the ‘rags to riches, new challenges arise, then concluding redemption’ formula. This is typical of rock band biopics, which has likely not earned many plaudits from critics. However, the Motley Crue story is one branded by a happy-go-lucky approach to the rock and roll fable and overcoming the consequences of those actions. 

Summary

So there you have it, our unbiased movie review of Motley Crue: The Dirt. This is an over-the-top, raunchy and shocking adaptation of the autobiography of the same title. Readers of the book will be disappointed that so much was cut out. It falls a victim to that typical conundrum of the film barely scratching the surface of an entertaining and complicated true story. The performances of the lead cast are truly fantastic in their novelties.

Its sock-factor approach to the Motley Crue tale could be regarded as being manufactured to gain an audience. Although I do not believe this is entirely the case. Fans of the band will know how extreme these stories are and readers of The Dirt will concur the film jumped the gun on some of those extremities.  

Overall, The Dirt is a fun-filled, comedic rollercoaster that details some of the highest highs and lowest lows of the rock and roll lifestyle and growing up in general. It falls into some cliché potholes but that is because Motley Crue championed those clichés. Many of its critiques I believe are intentional. If rock and roll is your thing and you have considered attending a music festival, check our survival guide

For fans of the band, music genre or biopics in general, this is a must-watch. However, I would not recommend watching this with the grandparents during afternoon tea. 

Overall – 7/10 – Good