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Netflix Mötley Crüe biopic a ride on the mild side

If you’re a fan of Mötley Crüe you’ve already seen this movie and no doubt you really enjoyed it. But what if you’re not?

The characters of The Dirt movie, Tommy Lee, Vince Neil, Nikki Six and Mick Mars on stage.

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I like Mötley Crüe, they’ve got some good tunes but they’ve got some rubbish ones too. The thing that always drew me to this band were the stories, their revolting behaviour and their ability to always seemingly have the most beautiful girlfriends, especially Tommy Lee.

This is a band that would have a snowflake’s chance in hell of surviving in this time of weaponised political correctness and the #MeToo movement.

If you read their highly embellished biography The Dirt, you work out pretty quickly that they’re not the nicest guys on the planet. They’re really just a bunch of self-centred arseholes with even less regard or respect for other people than the very little amount they have for themselves—with the exception of Mick Mars, who I always thought was pretty cool.

Mötley Crüe were a band formed in a time where mythology was everything. There was no social media, you weren’t constantly updated as to what they were eating for breakfast or wether they’d just taken a shit. Instead, here in Australia, you had to wait for the first Wednesday of every month when Hot Metal came out. You’d race to the newsagents with your pocket money to pick up a copy and read about what antics your heavy metal heroes got up to that month.

Not being spoiled by a constant flow of information meant imaginations could run wild. It turned musicians into gods.

Mötley Crüe were consistently in the headlines during that time and these stories forged their legend. They were the absolute epitome of sex, drugs and rock and roll. They literally got away with murder, well actually vehicular manslaughter if we want to be accurate.

The book

I think that their biography, The Dirt, is maybe one of the most entertaining rock biographies I’ve ever read.

If you haven’t had the pleasure, author Neil Strauss has pieced it together with all members of the band telling it from their own perspective. It’s full of he said, she said storytelling. There is no doubt that the truth probably sits somewhere in between but they spent the best part of their time on tour so fucked up and out of their heads I’m surprised they remember anything, let alone anything correctly.

Turning that book into a biopic is not only ambitious but seemingly impossible. Yet here we are.

The movie

Adding to the challenge is the fact that director Jeff Tremaine is really only known for MTV reality shows, skateboarding videos and most famously Jackass. So while this is a very different style of storytelling for him, it does feel like a natural fit given the behaviour of the protagonists.

The movie has all the clichés you would expect from a rock and roll biopic, from the bands inception, to the firing/quitting of Vince Neil to rehiring. Then there’s all the drugs, sex, trashing hotel rooms, touring montages, rehab stuff and music, which I thought they actually would have featured more of.

A few things that have been switched up for the sake of the story and fans will notice inaccuracies like Vince auditioning with the band by singing Live Wire, which hadn’t even been written at that stage, Mick Mars didn’t have hip surgery until 8 years after 1996, Tommy never met Heather Locklear the night of the notorious car crash, and according to the film, it looks like Pamela Anderson never existed. That last one is disappointing because I would have loved to have seen some stuff about her relationship with Tommy Lee in there.

This aside, they’ve not embellished nearly as much as Queen did with Bohemian Rhapsody and they’re quite open about it. Like the book parts are narrated by each member of the band and there’s lots of moments where the characters break the fourth wall to share stuff and even tell the audience that certain events didn’t happen they way they’re being portrayed. This works surprisingly well and is a bit of a highlight.

The cast

The performance of the cast is a little inconsistent. The weakest link is probably Douglas Booth as Nikki Sixx, but maybe that’s just because the man himself has such a distinct look and Booth seems too clean cut. Daniel Webber, is all over the shop as Vince Neil but by the time we got to the fourth act where Vince gets put through the ringer he kicks his performance up a notch. Iwan Rheon from Game of Thrones was great as Mick Mars and really projected the essence of the cantankerous fella I’ve always imagined Mick to be, but was maybe too comical for a guy suffering from chronic pain. Colson Baker aka Machine Gun Kelly actually steals the show with his portrayal of Tommy Lee, I think as far as all the actors go he’s the one who came closest to embodying his character.

The supporting cast in contrast were quite good. David Costabile did a decent job as manager Doc McGhee. Saturday Night Live’s Pete Davidson is in there as record label guy Tom Zutaut and Tony Cavalero puts in a brief but really fun appearance as Ozzy Osbourne.

The verdict

Having read the stories and letting my imagination build them up so much I found The Dirt as a film underwhelming. Maybe it’s just too little too late? Motley Crue are so far out of their time right now that they’re merely a novelty act for a lot of people riding the 80s nostalgia trend.

I thought the movie was enjoyable, with a few really cool moments but it didn’t feel like anything special. The worst part for me was they didn’t make much of an attempt to make the hair metal band’s hair all that authentic, the use of wigs was embarrassingly obvious. I mean, if you’re gonna get one fucking thing right in a movie about a hair metal band?

The Dirt is without a doubt a much nicer way for fans to remember Mötley Crüe, a band who went from Shouting at The Devil to being asked, as the song ‘1985’ by Bowling for Soup suggests, “when did Mötley Crüe become classic rock?”.

Sure a fine wine gets better with age, but in the case of The Dirt if you leave it too long it can turn to vinegar.

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