Raunchy rockers get revisionist spit shine instead of unabashed truth.
Since their inception, Mötley Crüe has made their bones on being the kings of sleaze. It’s baffling as a fan of the music and cinema that The Dirt is as neutered as it is. Mötley’s calling card is now that of rock and roll survivors. It would’ve been nice to see everything they survived.
The crux of the film is seen through Nikki Sixx’s POV. Born Frank Feranna, Jr., we see the bassist’s troubled youth gone wild, rising through the Punk and Metal scene until we meet the rest of the band. There they get to introduce themselves but defer back to Sixx. Amid all the revisionist debauchery, the back end of the film is basic boy loses band, boy gets band back together. While we get the happy ending, so much has been sacrificed in time-dashing and blurring storylines, that no real stakes have been set.
Rich Wilkes turns in a bland, inoffensive, and sadly safe script. The Xander Cage franchise (I’m charitably calling it that) was an 80-minute extreme sports commercial. We get the same here with all the rock and roll, crotch-stuffing clichés. It’s so many empty calories and larded with so much yada-yada-ing that the ending feels like the result of a word count, not the logical conclusion. Controversy around the validity of the stories have long been rumored since the release of the film’s source material, also named “The Dirt.” Trying to break the fourth wall speaks more to sheepish acknowledgement of omittance than clever film technique. This could’ve been the decline of western civilization but here we are with “Hysteria—The Def Leppard Story.”
Jeff Tremaine is the true rock star. He has the yeoman’s task of making all this cohesive. The genius stroke was making this film feel fun, not dangerous. If Wilkes is going to gloss over so many Mötley controversies, Tremaine made the right choice in making The Dirt triumphant and nostalgic in the right areas. I can’t wait to see the director with an actual script.
The cast does what it can with what it has. Colson Baker Machine Gun Kelly absolutely kills it. As Tommy Lee, he captures the youth and vibrancy for the band that was too fast for love. It’s weird seeing Iwan Rheon likeable. It’s a good look. Playing the quietest of the band members (guitarist Mick Mars), there was depth to mine. Shame we didn’t see more. Douglas Booth is serviceable in that he over-broods everything and I’m not sure why Pete Davidson is here. Tony Cavalero steals the damn show. Give us the Ozzy Osbourne pic we deserve.
While The Dirt doesn’t even get a scintilla close to the debauchery Mötley Crüe was known for, it has enough good times to keep the party going.