REVIEW: The Dirt (2019)

Release Poster – Netflix

The following is a review of Netflix’ The Dirt — Directed by Jeff Tremaine.

Based on the tell-all biography-of-the-same-name, which is co-authored by the band, Jeff Tremaine’s The Dirt tells the rise-and-fall-and-rise-again story of hair metal band Mötley Crüe, which included drummer Tommy Lee (played by Machine Gun Kelly), guitarist Mick Mars (played by Iwan Rheon), lead singer Vince Neil (played by Daniel Webber), and bassist Nikki Sixx (played by Douglas Booth).

I was never looking forward to The Dirt. Maybe it’s because I don’t particularly care about Mötley Crüe. Maybe it’s because of the controversy around the frustratingly successful Bohemian Rhapsody. Or maybe, just maybe, the reason why I never looked forward to The Dirt was because of the fact that the music biopic formula has become boring, repetitive, and a bit of a joke. No, wait, that last one is definitely the reason why.

Regardless of the music biopic’s subject, or subjects, the motion picture about them is never anywhere near as important, groundbreaking, or innovative as the people the story is about. You know exactly what you are getting the moment you press play or sit down in the theater to watch these films. That is to say, unless the filmmaker decided to do something interesting with the subject’s career.

In the case of Jeff Tremaine’s The Dirt not much has changed. The lead singer lip-syncs and the film goes through all the steps of the music biopic formula that you expect it to. We rush past scenes showing the future bandmembers at home, we get to see the formation of the band, we see lots of sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll, the band hits rock bottom, but then, towards the end, they triumphantly re-team to play a concert to end the film. And then, to fill the time between each stage of the formula, there are montages of them playing songs, touring, doing drugs, and being with fans or groupies. It is repetitive, by-the-numbers, and so incredibly boring.

Tremaine, however, is not obsessed with the creation of this, that, or the other supposedly iconic song. No, his film, instead of being interested in the music the band created, is obsessed to a disturbing degree with the band’s self-indulgence and debauchery. It is a film created to highlight the crazy stories that were documented in the autobiography on which the film is based, but by no means to showcase the band’s music or to investigate, discuss, or take a critical eye to the band’s antics.

The film literally begins with the members of the band being seen performing oral sex and setting fire to themselves. One of the band members even says: “We weren’t a band. We were a gang.” This disinterest in the band’s music might’ve been less problematic if Tremaine had managed to succeed with the sobering moments of the film, which might’ve then balanced out the wild first hour of the film. Tommy Lee’s behavior in his relationships isn’t explored to a satisfying degree, Nikki Sixx’s character arc is formulaic and tiresome, and even though a heartbreaking moment in Vince Neil’s private life works fairly well it warranted much more focus than it gets.

The characters’ wigs and facial hair are distractingly poor. The needle drop-timing is frustratingly obvious. The most memorable scene in the film — the one and only scene featuring Ozzy Osbourne (played by Tony Cavalero) — is flat-out disgusting. The dialogue in The Dirt is awful. The adult female characters in The Dirt are all either nagging girlfriends, abusive parents, nameless nude groupies, or heartless adulterers. Though the film includes playful fourth-wall breaks, none of the characters in the film are engaging, and Saturday Night Live-alum Pete Davidson is so out of place here as a representative of a record label.

Jeff Tremaine’s The Dirt was made for fans of the band as well as those people who just want to see sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll on their flatscreen. Though it is superficial, it may end up being ‘good enough’ for them, and it most definitely tells a more honest story than Bohemian Rhapsody did, but The Dirt is, nevertheless, a tired, uninvolving, and, frankly, unpleasant music biopic.

3.5 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.

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