Movie Review: ‘THE DIRT’ offers intimate look at legendary band’s legacy


Andy Begay // Contributing Writer


Not rated, 107 minutes.
Director: Jeff Tremaine
Cast: Douglas Booth, Machine Gun Kelly, Daniel Webber,
Iwan Rheon
, Katherine Neff, Kathryn Morris, Tony Cavalero, Max Milner and David Costabile

When it comes to 1980s pop culture, it’s easy to envision bubblegum highlights like big hair, obnoxious fashion (here’s looking at you, shoulder pads and leg warmers!), synthesizers and megastars like Madonna, Prince or Whitney Houston. But there was also a much grittier, dirtier side to this Decade of Excess, and accounts of decadence don’t get much raunchier than those of legendary glam rock band Mötley Crüe.

Audiences were first given an inside look into Mötley Crüe’s wild (to put it very mildly) antics in their 2001 memoir and New York Times Bestseller, The Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band the band co-wrote alongside author Neil Strauss. Director Jeff Tremaine (JACKASS: THE MOVIE, BAD GRANDPA) brings this rowdy autobiography to life with his newest film for Netflix, THE DIRT.

Presented in first person through the lens of the band members who lived it, THE DIRT chronicles the story of how Mötley Crüe—a band comprised of “an old man, kid drummer, a cover band singer and a f***ing runaway”—blasted to superstardom in the early 1980s, drinking, snorting and shooting their way to the highest of highs and most extreme of lows. The band members get their onscreen second wind with the help of actors Douglas Booth as bassist Nikki Sixx, Iwan Rheon (GAME OF THRONES, MISFITS) as guitarist Mick Mars, Colson Baker (aka Machine Gun Kelly) as drummer Tommy Lee and Daniel Webber as singer Vince Neil.

Coming in at just under two hours, THE DIRT is chock full of firsthand Mötley Crüe accounts — including Mars’ degenerative spinal disease diagnosis; Lee’s marriage to actress Heather Locklear; Neil’s 1984 car accident that resulted in the death of Hanoi Rocks drummer, Razzle; and Sixx’s 1987 heroin overdose — and goes from zero to 60 from the opening scene moving forward. Overall, film’s pacing can seem a bit rushed at times, but Tremaine and writers Rich Wilkes and Amanda Adelson do a good job of condensing the band’s decades-long career with very few lulls in storytelling—which is good news for those of us whose attention spans are used to the fast-paced nature of 21st century life.

THE DIRT is a fun, if not sugar-coated film that Mötley Crüe fans —old and new — are sure to enjoy. It’s as close as you can get to the band’s prodigal lifestyle without a time machine, numerous stints in jail or multiple disorderly conduct citations. So put on your (p)leather pants, tease your hair, buckle up and get ready to rock out and enjoy the joyride that is THE DIRT.

Grade: B-

THE DIRT had its world premiere on Monday, March 18, 2019 at ArcLight Hollywood in Los Angeles, California. The film is available for streaming today on Netflix.

About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.