Review: The Dirt (2019)

What happens when you take a troubled dad rock band that was never properly passed on to any following generation and adapt an apparently disturbing tell-all book into an audience-friendly Netflix biopic? You get an experience about as pleasant as lapping up Ozzy Osbourne’s piss off the edge of a pool.

The Dirt appears to be targeted solely at older Generation X’ers who never quite grew up. The director’s previous credits all belong to the Jackass franchise, and his obsession with bodily fluids and self-destruction is just as shallow here. Motley Crue is not a band I even moderately respect, but I can at least admit there could have been something done with the source material – but this is not it.

With Jeff Tremaine’s immature focus, The Dirt is nothing more than a simple journey into hedonism. There’s no real atmospheric feel, just a bunch of awful men doing stupid things and not really being judged for it. The movie has slight references to the fact that there was likely something psychologically wrong with members of this band, but nothing is done to really analyze their behavior. Instead, the film largely joins in on the glee of their reckless abandon.

The Dirt has all the pieces required for a mid-2000s MTV film, a decade and a half too late. There’s no real sense of effort put into this movie – they took an easy source with a built-in fan base and narrowed it down to the most shocking moments in the name of bile fascination. If you’re not a fan of Motley Crue, you’re most likely going to walk away from this movie convinced they’re a group of awful, abusive people who you have no reason to look into any further. Which, really, is fine – there’s a reason we look back on the mainstream culture of the 1980s specifically and laugh.

The cast of the film doesn’t seem to be even halfway trying – you know there’s a problem when Machine Gun Kelly isn’t just a minor role but one of the leads (and he now unfortunately tops the list of my most watched actors of 2019). This film falls back on all the biopic cliches, and every close-up, fourth wall-breaking camera address just highlights how poor these performances are.

The film is a technical chore, the most generically shot film I’ve experienced this year. If Motley Crue is supposedly this transgressive band, why is everything in this movie so by the numbers? The acts performed on camera are certainly vile, but there’s little attempt to back it up through camera work or anything. When it does do something a bit unusual, it’s clearly because Tremaine has seen it done in other works and is simply copying, such as a first-person bender sequence. He even tries to use fades to black to punctuate each cut during a key end scene, which ultimately just highlights the shoddiness of everything.

The Dirt is simply a valueless film. There’s nothing to be gained from the experience; no reason to watch unless you’re a die-hard Motley Crue fan, and even then, you should ask for something more from a biopic about something you adore – though I guess that would require Motley Crue fans to be capable of asking for something better. They enjoy Motley Crue, after all.

1 Out of 5 Stars

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