The long gestating Mötley Crüe biopic The Dirt, which hits Netflix today (March 22), couldn’t come out at a worse time.
It’s a glorification of hard drugs, heavy drinking, lewd, crude, misogynistic and a bunch of other adjectives about behavior that doesn’t play well in the current #MeToo landscape. It’s also a time capsule of what had teens of both sexes salivating over their copies of Hit Parader and Circus magazines in the mid-’80s, desperate to learn the latest goings on of a group of four guys who together had a rather remarkable evolution, from glam band to bikers to legitimate metal chart toppers to ’90s tabloid fodder to reunited aughts rock legends, all somehow remaining mostly relevant over the course of several decades.
“If you’re making a movie in 2019 about the colonial period and burning witches, and society wants you to remove it because we don’t burn witches anymore, that’s not honest filmmaking,” Sixx told Entertainment Weekly recently. “Our outlook on the whole thing: ‘That was then and this is now.’ I’m not the same man I was 30 years ago.”
Yeah, he can draw any parallel he’d like to, but having the opening scene feature a woman squirt (!!) in a roomful of drunken onlookers pretty much ensures The Dirt is not going to be a surprise Oscar contender à la Bohemian Rhapsody. But any fears that it would be as easily dismissive as a VH-1 “Movies That Rock” entry or bedraggled like the quasi (but really) Judas Priest biopic Rock Star are completely unfounded. The Dirt is its own entity, and any self-respecting Crüe fan is going to love it.
The rest of the populace? Well, that remains to be seen.
In addition to the aforementioned sequence which starts the film, there is an excess of gag reflex inducing behavior by the band depicted, whether it be vomiting on a stripper, an abundance of forced public oral sex or the bloodying, physical abuse of a woman. But like Sixx intimated, it was the innocence of the times!
That said, The Dirt is a blast to watch, because it showcases these four degenerates with no apologies. Sixx (Douglas Booth) is so fucked up on heroin that he can barely stand up — as best man — at Tommy Lee’s wedding to Heather Locklear due to his crippling heroin dependency. Lee (Machine Gun Kelly) is like a puppy dog whenever it comes to a new girl in his life, thinking each one is the one.
Mick Mars (Iwan Rheon) is a bitter, grumpy, old man who basically puts up with the shenanigans of his bandmates. And Vince Neil? Australian actor Daniel Webber is the star of the movie, nailing it as the Sunset Strip’s sleaziest frontman from the ’80s (sorry, Stephen Pearcy). He gets the mannerisms, nuances, inflections and, most importantly, the voice down pat.
Webber also had the task of portraying the two most emotional moments in The Dirt: The death of Hanoi Rocks drummer Razzle, who died while a passenger in the car of Neil while the pair were making a beer run in 1984, and the passing of his daughter Skylar in 1995 from cancer at the entirely, tragic, too young age of four years old. He steps up for both, and though it’s not the easiest scenes to watch, his acting on both parts stands out above everyone else.
There’s a lot left out of The Dirt; nothing about Pamela Anderson and the madness surrounding her relationship with Lee, the sex tapes, incarceration, etc. Nor is there anything about Neil’s initially successful solo career, which trumped his ex-bandmates at the outset of their dissolution. For one hot minute Neil’s replacement John Corabi is shown, but he fades out pretty quickly, cast off on a holiday for hooligans.
It’s all good though. The fact that The Dirt is premiering on Netflix is a guarantee it will get a load of views this weekend. But it’s also so depraved, so… decadent, that it’s bound to result in repeat viewings by those who are thinking to themselves, “Wait, did I just see that?” Yeah, you did. And as we know, it’s the looks that kill.