Review: 'The Dirt' gets dirty but not deep

Mötley Crüe's notorious autobiography comes to life but rarely digs below the surface

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic
Douglas Booth, Daniel Webber, Iwan Rheon and Colson Baker in "The Dirt."

Mötley Crüe's tales of drunken and drugged-out debauchery are the stuff of rock and roll legend, and the band's 2001 memoir "The Dirt" is an extravagant ode to a lifestyle of over-the-top excess. 

The movie version of "The Dirt" doesn't skimp on the barf, boobs and binges that made it such a lewd read, but as a psychological profile, it's not much deeper than a backstage pass. 

"Jackass" director Jeff Tremaine knows a thing or two about bad boys forming a family unit through shared stupidity, so he's a good choice to helm this tale. He opens on the Sunset Strip in 1981 and wastes no time spewing bodily fluids on screen. 

Douglas Booth is Nikki Sixx, the bassist and brains behind the glam metal outfit, which aimed to bring stadium-level production — costumes, lights, pyrotechnics — to the L.A. club scene. Colson "Machine Gun Kelly" Baker is a cast highlight as Tommy Lee, and he embodies the lanky drummer's sunny, goofball, hey-dude energy. (The movie's most visceral scene lets viewers live a day in the life of Lee, as seen through his bleary eyes.) 

"The Dirt" wants to celebrate the Crüe and its wild ways — the notorious ant-snorting incident with Ozzy Osbourne (Tony Cavalero) is played out here — but has to pump the brakes when things get dark. There are overdoses, deaths and personal issues; Mick Mars (Iwan Rheon) suffers from a degenerative bone disease, which is mentioned but never explored; frontman Vince Neil (Daniel Webber) experiences tremendous personal loss, which the film mostly brushes off. 

A bit of introspection would heighten the experience and deepen the characters, but Tremaine leans on familiar themes of tribal unity to glaze over the thinner sections of the script. 

Mötley Crüe's is a grimy story that "The Dirt" gives a glossy sheen. In an early scene, the band drowns out a critic by cranking up the volume; in a sense, that's what "The Dirt" does, too. 

'The Dirt'


Not rated: Nudity, language, sex, drugs and rock and roll

Running time: 113 minutes

On Netflix