Musical biopics seem to be all the rage at the moment. 'Bohemian Rhapsody' was a big success and 'Rocketman', based on Elton John's career, hits cinemas in May. It's no wonder Netflix want in on the action. And so we have 'The Dirt', based on the notorious rock'n'roll group Mötley Crüe. Everything you need to know is in that title alone.
From the opening scene, it's clear that the fast-paced camerawork and editing is attempting to infuse life and 'coolness' into an essentially hollow movie. Within minutes, everyone is having sex, drunk, getting high, and/or on fire. Oh and the grand crescendo (again, this is the very first scene) is a young woman squirting a ludicrous amount of liquid after one of the band members goes down on her. Did we mention that this is in the middle of a party and there are crowds cheering around her? If you're already perturbed, 'The Dirt' may not be the movie for you.
The scene that follows opens with the 'I better start at the beginning' cliche. A young Nicki Sixx's stepfather hits him for brushing his teeth wrong. As a teenager, he tries to get his mother arrested by cutting himself. It's all a bit much. Moreover, this is all explained by the drollest voiceover narration from lead Douglas Booth (who has been much better elsewhere) as he tries to stay cool but also expressive. It's not very rock'n'roll.
In the role of Tommy, rapper-turned-actor (apparently) Machine Gun Kelly appears to have adopted a similar style. Both are trying so hard that they feel completely miscast. Playing Mick Mars, Iwan Rheon of 'Game of Thrones' fame fares better. He's the only cast member who can actually pull off apathy; and yet he gets the least screen time of the bunch. Rounding off the foursome, Daniel Webber is just okay as frontman Vince Neil.
'The Dirt' is a film based around excessive blowjobs, drug abuse, screwing and partying. Women are there for sex or to lavish praise. If they nag or verbally abuse the band, they'll be in trouble because screw equality, along with good filmmaking standards.
Subtlety and nuance are completely done away with. Lines of actual dialogue in the film include "I was in a band to get laid, not scare chicks away" and "Everybody wanted to party with us". Tommy talks about how bad Nikki's drug addiction is - over a scene showing how bad his drug addiction is.
What's even more embarrassing is the film appears to be attempting to copy from contemporary 'cool' filmmakers like Adam McKay. There are front to camera addresses and instances of "This isn't really what happened. It was actually blady blah..."
Later, "This guy was important too, but we cut him from the movie."
Based on the Motley Crue's autobiography 'The Dirt: Confessions of the World's Most Notorious Rock Band', you wonder how much of it is true. The worst scene in the movie involves Ozzy Osbourne, a curious impersonation by Tony Cavalero, which turns from intriguing to utterly disgusting. 'The Dirt' is trying to 'shock' you with all the 'outrageous' things the Mötley Crüe did but it's so very try-hard that it's cringeworthy.
As with any movie, it has its moments, such as an impressive montage to the song "Girls Girls Girls" depicted from Tommy's perspective. And about an hour through the film, if you can hold out that long, it takes a turn towards the serious as things go from bad to worse for the Mötley Crüe. There is a bit more personality in this second half and it even starts to have a little, dare we say, feeling. But unfortunately, it's too little too late.
Here's the narrative trajectory in a nutshell. Each band member is discovered, the guys pick a name for their group and have their first - almost disaster, but then completely successful - gig. From there comes a montage of gigs (though surprisingly few full concert scenes - perhaps due to budgetary constraints) and parties. Then there's a crisis, followed by resolution.
Basically, it's a cheaper, less impressive version of 'Bohemian Rhapsody', but there's nothing regal here.