he "rock n roll biopic" is bigger than ever since the box office success of BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY and the subsequent OSCAR win for actor RAMI MALEK for his flashy portrayal of the one and only FREDDIE MERCURY. Later this year, we can expect a film based on the life SIR ELTON JOHN, nicked ROCKET MAN, to hit the silver screen. Rock n roll has always lent itself to great drama given the intensity of the music and the fabled ups and downs that usual accompany lifestories that come complete with meteoric rises, devastating crashes and burns that hopefully culminate into a newfound resilience to move forward with an audience to cheer the protagonist on. I've already betting that ROCKET MAN, like BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY, will go for hagiography at the expense of telling us something truly juicy and why the hell not? Both films are produced by the very subjects they cover. This is not quite the case for THE DIRT, a film based on the collaborative autobiography of glam metal icons MOTLEY CRUE titled THE DIRT: CONFESSIONS OF THE WORLD'S MOST NOTORIOUS ROCK BAND. The eagerly awaited film has dropped on NETFLIX at a very curious time in pop cultural zeitgeist marked by #metoo and thought of it has me in stitches.
In looking at the initial reviews since the critical embargo on the film was lifted on March 22, 2019, much of the critical venom is directed at the white boy errancy of its lead characters and the women as mere sex objects to be used, shut up and eventually cast aside. Perhaps it's my age talking, but to me, its simply the rock n roll I grew up with and precisely the kind of hijinx you would expect from a film about a band famous for fighting, fucking and drug use. In fact, that is the bare minimum to expect in this film with JACK ASS director JEFF TREMAINE at the helm. THE DIRT is not a film that is going to genuflect to the #metoo movement and strive for congeniality in a time marked by alarming political divisiveness and because of that, I applaud the film's presence in the pop culture stratosphere. Hell! If anything tells you that that is movie is flying in the face of our supposed, polite society, it is the opening single camera shot which takes us from the crowded Sunset Strip of the 1980's into a wild ass party where TOMMY LEE (COLSON BAKER) is is giving oral to a groupie, NIKKI SIXX's (DOUGLAS BOOTH) arm is on fire, VINCE NEILL (DANIEL WEBBER) is giving it to a girl up the ass in a bathroom while admiring his picture on a CRUE poster and MICK MARS (IWAN RHEON who looks nothing like MARS) is lying down and taking no interest in the chaos going on or the groupie at his side. The scene culminates with the groupie that LEE was going down on projectile ejaculating to the cheers of the drunken partygoers.
THE DIRT delivers on the sex, drugs and rock n roll as expected, and even a few laughs, but sadly, falls short of the hype that had been built up to this point. Despite all of the bathroom rendezvousing and cocaine snorting, THE DIRT is a fairly sanitized telling to the MOTLEY CRUE mythos where the charms wear paper thin after the first thirty five minutes of the thing. And lets not bring up how the the film is shot in crude, FOX sitcom lighting as opposed something more cinematic. Like the book it is inspired by, each member of the band takes turns narrating their piece of the story. The film starts with bassist NIKKI SIXX growing up as FRANKIE FERANNA JR. to a tipsy, inattentive, run-a-round mother and her series of asshole boyfriends. Despite the dysfunction, young SIXX (the actor playing SIXX as a child manages to deliver an edgier performance than RHEON) learns to play bass along to his T-REX 45s. A fight with his mother and her latest boyfriend results in SIXX cutting his arm and calling Children's Services to be taken away from the home. From there, TOMMY LEE takes the narrative and boasts an idyllic suburban upbringing in Covina, California where the rock n roll antics of the budding lothario only slightly annoy his father but doesn't upset the family's NORMAN ROCKWELL-styled tranquility. LEE and his date head for the strip to catch a show by his favorite band LONDON. After the show, LEE abandons his date when he sees LONDON's bass player NIKKI SIXX sitting at a table at a restaurant, minding a bloody nose. Apparently the band LONDON is finished and SIXX and LEE set off to put a new band together. Through a laborious audition process, they come across guitarist MICK MARS, a glib, sullen, older musician who gives the band some kick on the six string. In search of a lead singer, LEE leads the band to a "skinny blonde fucker with moves" who sings in a cover band named VINCE NEIL (I'll overlook my nitpick of NEIL singing BILLY SQUIER's MY KINDA LOVER in 1978 when the song came out in 1981). The band is formed and nicked and before long, a reputation making first gig at the STARWOOD takes place and sets the band on the path to notoriety. Their success on the strip leads to attention from ELECTRA RECORDS scout TOM ZUTAUT played by SNL "it" boy PETE DAVIDSON in a performance and a wig that takes one clear out the of the film, and legendary rock manager DOC McGHEE played by a surprisingly spot on DAVID COSTABILE.
With the band on the path to riches, one would think the party is just beginning, but in fact the film takes a dive from here with one antic after another. A hotel room goes up in flames and the band terrorizes hotel staff and guests while on the road under McGHEE's supervision. A scene with OZZY OSBOURNE at a hotel poolside takes the focus away from the band as OZZY moons guests, snorts ants and licks up SIXX's pee. Of course some the excessive behavior isn't so comical such as LEE's engagement to a groupie named ROXY. On a tour bus, ROXY continually calls LEE's beloved mother a "cunt" and jabs a pen into LEE's shoulder blade. When the ROXY doesn't refrain from cursing LEE's mother, LEE punches her. At the sight of her blood, LEE retreats to the back of the bus and the scene is over. With all of LEE's legendary bad boy antics, we are left wondering where the restraint is coming from. With the band now famous, they soon rub elbows with the band HANOI ROCKS and TOMMY LEE hooks up with HEATHER LOCKLEAR and cinematically there is not much to the romance aside from merely carving a notch on the dashboard.
Despite the career of the band cruising along, it isn't long before disaster strikes. VINCE NEIL gets drunk behind the wheel and gets into a car accident which kills drummer RAZZLE of HANOI ROCKS. While he is arrested for drunk driving and vehicular manslaughter, the punishment is miniscule, leaving NEIL to battle survivor's guilt, which actor DANIEL WEBBER tackles convincingly. By this time, SIXX has developed a $1,000.00 a day heroin addiction which drives a wedge between him and his friendship with LEE who has asked him to be the best man at his wedding to HEATHER. Shortly after the wedding, SIXX suffers an overdose that results in him temporarily dying until he is revived by paramedics with two adrenaline shots to the chest. With a new lease on life, SIXX not only goes to rehab but gets the entire band to do so before embarking on the 1989-1990 DR. FEELGOOD TOUR (the tour for the only MOTLEY CRUE album I ever owned). The months long world tour tests the sobriety of NEIL and LEE. At the tour's conclusion, NEIL comes home to learn that his wife and daughter have left him the tailspin causes him to put the band aside and eventually step away from the band and be replaced by JOHN CORABI. The loss of NEIL's four year old daughter SKYLAR to stomach cancer is another moment where DANIEL WEBBER brings it home, but with a rushed script by RICK WILKES (AIRHEADS, remember that one), it clashes harshly with the sartorial tone of the rest of the film. WILKES' script is hellbound and determined to cut a long story short and brings us to a denouement where SIXX negotiates with ELECTRA to get the them out of their contract by letting them retain the rights to their music and the boys in the band put aside their differences and continue to be MOTLEY CRUE for another 20 years and that's it. We didn't even get into TOMMY LEE's tumultuous marriage to PAMELA ANDERSON and all of the tabloid shit that went along with that, but the filmmakers also chose not to bring up LEE's side project METHODS OF MAYHEM. I guess every cloud has a silver lining.
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