The former bad boys of the Sunset Strip, Mötley Crüe, get just the biopic they deserve in Netflix’s adaptation of the hair-metal band’s best-selling memoir, The Dirt. It’s cartoonish, fast-paced, a bit cheesy, and ridiculously dumb fun. Nikki Sixx, the band’s bassist who would later become a death-wish heroin addict, kicks things off with the sort of cheeky postmodern voiceover that was once groundbreaking but has now become a cliché in movies like this. Talking to the audience, he sets the ’80s scene as a time of stupid haircuts, jazzercise, and “Just say no.” Needless to say, Mötley Crüe didn’t have time for jazzercise and pretty much said yes to every drug that was passed their way. As for stupid haircuts, they were all in.
Directed by Jeff Tremaine, whose work with danger-courting numbskulls of the Jackass movies and Bad Grandpa seems to have trained him well for the assignment, lays out the origin story of the band with zippy, superficial economy. Nikki Sixx (Douglas Booth) is a teen runaway with a standing date with oblivion. Tommy Lee (Machine Gun Kelly) is the giddy, shirtless drummer with an innocent sweet side when he’s not getting loaded, trashing hotel rooms, and bedding groupies. Vince Neil (Daniel Webber) is the lady-killing front man with long blond hair and dark cloud of bad luck hanging over him. And Mick Mars (Iwan Rheon) is the older, somewhat wiser (it’s all relative) guitar virtuoso who oozes dry, deadpan sarcasm while nursing a degenerative spine disease. Together, they’re not just a band, but a self-proclaimed “gang of idiots.”
The film traces the group’s meteoric rise and kamikaze fall, missing no opportunity to chronicle the boys’ Caligulan feats of debauchery. That only gets dialed up after they tour with Ozzy Osbourne (Tony Cavalero), who steals a great five minutes of the movie by flashing his butt at strangers, snorting up a line of ants, and lapping up his own urine. Pete Davidson plays the dim A&R doofus who signed the band to Elektra, and David Costabile is the band’s jaded road manager, Doc — a seen-it-all rock veteran who’s paid to put out fires (sometimes literally) and be johnny-on-the-spot with bail money. It should be noted somewhere (I suppose here) that Webber’s lip-syncing as Vince Neil is laughably bad.
The Dirt is a guilty-pleasure whiplash ride fueled-injected with all the sex, drugs, and rock & roll you’d expect. And if its casually chauvinistic and leering attitude toward women seems gratuitous, it is accurate. The film eventually runs out of gas a bit in the third act when the guys get sober (well, mostly), sins are paid for, and life lessons are learned. Still, I can honestly say I enjoyed this movie a lot more than another recent rock biopic: Bohemian Rhapsody. This movie won’t win any awards. Nor should it. But for two hours it’s a nostalgic blast to sit back and revel in the idiocy of these glorious, big-haired jackasses. B
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