The Dirt | Saints of Los Angeles | Movie Review

As much as the next man, I love to have time off. It’s a perfect time to catch up on albums, books by artists and maybe the odd movie or two – about musicians. Considering my lengthy ‘suspension’ for p***ing in my Editors Mother’s lovely homemade trifle and doing unspeakable things with their family budgie (to which in my defence I have done a lot worse to family pets!) There was plenty to catch up on (That’s the last bloody time I invite you to dinner Nick! – Dessert Deprived & Very Disturbed Editor)

In Flames bought a new album out, which was OK. It won’t shake the world but made for a nice little sandwich filler that’ll please their fan-base. Buckcherry reminded everyone why no-one goes near Buckcherry with a ten foot bog brush and I wasn’t going to review that when I still had the awful taste of Avril Lavigne in my mouth (Probably no worse than I imagine the once delicious trifle would have tasted! – Still Bitter Editor Who Is Very Much Holding A Grudge). 

No, for my first review back after my hiatus, I wanted to review something different and would you Adam and Steve it, Netflix gave that opportunity with their adaptation of Motley Crue’sThe Dirt’.

Based on the book of the same name, for those who do not know Motley Crue, may I say boredom must have really put in a choke-hold on you if you wanted to read a review on a band you have no clue about. How can I describe ‘The Crue‘ in a sentence? They were one of the pioneer’s behind the American Hair Metal scene and while releasing some blinders, they were much more known for their almost legendary off-stage antics.

A legacy soaked in Jack Daniels and – um… – the juices of the female demographic. Motley Crue had a load of war stories to trade, which was presented in the 2001 book ‘The Dirt’. As a young pup of a rocker trying to find every excuse to get away from the Emo scene that was stinking up the place like a bloated carcass, I dove into this book and was in awe over the lives of four LA rockers on their quest to self destruction.

I will happily recommend this book to anyone wanting to start a band, it’s certainly an eye opening account, either as a raised bar of decadence to try and match or how not to rack a huge bill on hotel expenses and lawsuits. With album sales being what they are in 2019 may I recommend the former and not the latter?    

Talks of ‘The Dirt’ being made as a movie or a one off TV Show was always in talks, however, in 2017 Netflix announced the news – The Dirt was going to be officially a movie with Jackass Director Jeff Termaine helming the project. It was a combination that made sense, Termaine may not be widely regarded as the next Spielberg, but certainly knows a thing or two about debauchery and smashed up hotel rooms. With biopics currently having somewhat of a renaissance period with movies such as ‘Straight Outta Compton’ and ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ the timing couldn’t be more perfect for Netflix to pull the trigger.

Did it pay off? Sort of and we will discover why.

Just before we get stuck into the movie, we are introduced to the voice over of Nikki Sixx, played by Douglas Booth. it should be noted that if you haven’t read the book, each chapter is told by different members and whilst the movie does try to capture that same magic, it does focus a lot more on Sixx being the main hedonist. This isn’t an awful choice as Sixx’s stories in the book are arguably the more interesting, but not enough attention is given to the other voice overs, making all other voice overs in this movie fairly pointless.

The movie kicks off with one of The Crue’s infamous parties, in which we are visually treated to plenty of drugs, raucous behavior that would make the #MeToo movement curl into a ball and weep for death and – well – something I can best describe as a woman cheating in a water fight. Now, this alone is the first three minutes and this scene alone indicates this movie is NSFW, it does set up the perfect tempo of who Motley Crue were and what ‘The Dirt’ should be.

We are introduced to drummer Tommy Lee, played by rapper Machine Gun Kelly, who captures the drummers erratic energy very well, Mick Mars played by Iwan Rheon, who unlike his Game of Thrones counterpart, is not chopping anyone’s penis anytime soon and does well as the bitter sarcastic cynical older man portrayed in the book, only with less conspiracy theories. Finally we have the singer Vince Neil played Daniel Webber, who I have to admit is probably the weakest out of the bunch, we will get to him a little later on.

The story itself takes us to familiar territories in the biographic genre, band meets up, play a few gigs, get big, implode, breakup, kiss and make up, ends on a positive note. It’s a tale that pesters even the best of biographical movies, but what matters is what is being told and how it is portrayed.

‘The Dirt’ tells it’s tale relatively well. We get to see some of the bands more infamous moments, such as their ill fated tour with Ozzy Osbourne, ant snorting and all (though for some reason the movie gave Birmingham’s most popular vegetable an Australian accent) and Sixx’s eventual downward spiral into heroin. All of this is packaged in drenched neon mise en scene, a fist pumping soundtrack and seriously awful wigs! Seriously, the wigs are horrendous to the point of parody.

One element that was tricky to get on with ‘The Dirt’ comes with its fourth wall breaking, there are moments where an actor will look at the camera and just spout huge chunks of the book and then we get back to the movie. To say it disjoints the movie is an understatement, the only time it works well is during a scene that will be best remembered where Tommy Lee tells you his day to day activities during the heights of the band. The movie should have just stuck to either narration or fourth wall breaking, not both.  

Another big problem comes at just how they handle Daniel Webber’s Vince Neil. It’s not that he does a terrible job, rather than that Vince Neil is a person that bleeds charisma on and off stage. I’m sure it must have been a tricky act for Webber, but as the story unfolds you just don’t really care for his character. This especially problematic when you consider that the movie does focus on two major events of the singers life – the death of his daughter and his vehicular manslaughter charge of Hanoi Rocks drummer Razzle.

These two scenes should have been pivotal to the movie, but there’s not really a lot of screen time to either Razzle or Neil’s daughter. Watching this with friends, who knew nothing of eighties hair metal or Motley Crue for that matter, I had to basically pause the movie and explain what happened, breaking probably the biggest cardinal sin of a biographic movie.

The reason why we were not given as an extensive look into these two events is because at the halfway point of the movie, we are introduced to Nikki Sixx’s heroin habit. While it’s a chapter in the bands life that needed to be told, the bassist did technically ‘die’ (twice!) after all, the movie spends way too much time focusing on this. Pushing out other vocal points and thus making the deaths, along with the tumultuous marriage between Tommy Lee and Heather Locklear and Mick Mars’s painkiller addiction and worsening health inconsequential. When the movie stopped being ‘The Dirt’ it became a poor man’s ‘Trainspotting’ which sadly is the biggest, but most noticeable blemish of the movie.

It’s understandable that trying to translate an over four hundred page book into a one-hundred and ten minute movie is a stretch to say the least, for what it’s worth, Termaine and his crew did their best. ‘The Dirt’ does come with it’s moments, the actors gel very well as the band, there are some funny moments that had myself and my friends laughing. Given an extra half hour or even making it a short series would have done ‘The Dirt’ far better justice, however what we got was movie, with a lot of passion, some cool as f**k moments but ultimately, a biographic that tries to tell too many tales.  

About Nick Meekham 39 Articles
A shambles of a metal critic. I enjoy long walks on the beach, cheese and crying the shoulders of strippers on the weekend. Not necessarily in that order.

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