MOVIE REVIEW: The Dirt (2019)

This opening moments of the Motley Crue biopic, The Dirt, capture the essence of the 80s correctly – it was a weird time. When you’re specifically focusing on music, it seems like every band had their own gimmick to really stand out. Kiss had their makeup, Gene’s extremely long (and now iconic) tongue and governed they Kiss army. Twisted Sister had the element of cross dressing. Bon Jovi came across as the nice boys of the scene. Guns N Roses were the gents who really just didn’t care – they played loud and that was good enough for them. Then, you have Motley Crue. The band that had just gained this notorious reputation over the years for being the crazy ones. To quote, Captain Boomerang, “you know what they say about the crazy ones?” Should make for an entertaining film, right?


The Dirt is based off the 2001 book of the same name. The book divulges the true story of Motley Crue’s rise, fall, and comeback. The book was written by all four members of the band and organized Neil Strauss. Though somewhere along the way of the adaption from page to screen, the filmmakers should have called Strauss to organize the cinematic mess that is The Dirt. At first the film presents itself in the similarities of the book with the four narratives slowly becoming one. We open up on Nikki Sixx telling us about his past and how he came to form Crue. In almost the same fashion, we see narrative from drummer, Tommy Lee. The meeting of Sixx to Lee seems to flow flawlessly. It’s only after the two meet that the concept of the four part narration is quickly and abruptly abandoned. The craziest part of this narrative choice is that the Lee narration is dropped by the film’s second act. It goes in favor of the Sixx solo narration and randomly placed fourth wall breaks from Mick Mars, the band’s manager and record label representative.

Narration and fourth walls aside, the narrative as a whole seems a bit tipsy. It’s almost as if the filmmakers are aiming to embrace quick to the motto: Sex, Drugs and Rock N Roll. It moves way too quickly in certain parts, but then it’ll slow down to breathe in other parts. The portions of the film where it seems to breathe – the formation of the group, Vince Neil’s infamous drunk-driving vehicular manslaughter, Nikki’s heroine habit and even the transition between singers. There is a good portion of this film that is driving quickly on the open road and then hits random red lights that cause for uneven pacing within the film. Even the ending of the film feels abrupt. The ending where you could have flushed out a bit more is dropped in favor of a quick wrap-up and a 11 (almost 12) minute credit sequence.


Perhaps the film’s biggest flaw though is its’ selective development of its’ characters. For the entirety of the film, Mick Mars, just feels like a whisper. He’s given the occasional fourth wall break but for the most part he’s just white noise. The background noise that slowly develops a drinking problem and then slowly loses said problem. The same can be also said for Vince Neil. Neil is portrayed as an oversexualized, problem magnet. The only real weight his character is given through its entirety is to embrace sexist clichés or the absolute worst portions of the singer’s life. Neil simply comes across two-dimensional. It feels like the only real development we experience with him is his journey as a father and the unfortunate loss of his daughter. What drives the sadness factor even farther is the actors who portray the musicians – Daniel Webber as Neil & Iwan Rheon as Mars – both deliver equally wooden performances.

Despite all of the film’s flaws, it’s not without its charm. The narrative does a terrific job at building the Tommy Lee & Nikki Sixx characters – not only their friendship but also their arcs. With performances from rapper turned actor, Machine Gun Kelly as Lee & Douglas Booth as Sixx; The Dirt still has something to offer. Kelly has a level of charm, passion and genuine childlike happiness he brings to the role. He electrifies the screen with every frame that he is in. He perfectly portrays the level of debauchery that Lee has gained a reputation for over the years. In the same breath, Booth’s turn as Sixx, serves as the emotional catalyst for the film. Going through the heavy nature of Sixx’s addiction, the narrative and the actor both genuinely deliver the raw honesty of addiction. Booth powerfully delivers and stands out in the film because of the arc.


Overall, The Dirt¸is an 80s biopic on a glam-rock band that is in need of some massive hairspray and volume. The film falls flat on just about every note imaginable. Whether it’s the weird narrative choices of the fast paced storytelling and the abrupt halts – The Dirt can’t really make up its’ mind what it wants to do. It’s almost as drunk as its’ source material. A dual opening narrative quickly dropped in favor of random fourth breaks, wooden performances and void of emotion doesn’t really help it either. It does contain saving grace thanks to Machine Gun Kelly & Douglas Booth. Both deliver stand-out performances and bring charm to another otherwise charmless outing.


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