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"The Dirt" Review

/taps microphone

The Dirt is a better movie than Bohemian Rhapsody. FIGHT ME!

Based on the autobiography of Motley Crue of the same name, The Dirt dishes the, well, dirt on the notorious 1980s metal band known for hits like "Looks That Kill" and "Dr. Feelgood" when they weren't committing vehicular manslaughter (singer Vince Neill killed Hanoi Rocks member Razzle while drunk driving in 1984 and served a whopping couple of weeks in jail), dying of overdoses (bassist Nikki Sixx, twice), marrying Heather Locklear (that would be Tommy Lee), and countless other shenanigans.

Using a brisk pace and multi-POV structure which lets each member have the spotlight (though guitarist Mick Mars gets less time because he was more restrained in his antics), The Dirt manages to cover the band's formation, rise to superstardom and then the obligatory valleys of despair as drinking and drugging take their creative, interpersonal and health tolls.

Director Jeff Tremaine hasn't appeared to have done a serious narrative film before - his previous oeuvre is the Jackass features and Johnny Knoxville's actually sweet-tempered Bad Grandpa mockumentary - but his anarchic CV lends itself well to depicting the chaos of the band's party all the time lifestyle  (the sequence where Tommy Lee runs us through a typical day is a hoot) while managing to slow down for the dramatic parts like Sixx's $1000-a-day heroin habit and Neill's young daughter dying of cancer, something I'd never known about.

So why is The Dirt is a better movie than Bohemian Rhapsody? Because while it condenses a 430-page book down to a 110-minute movie - my Facebook feed was awash in book-to-movie comparisons by musician pals - and has to leave lots of stuff behind, it gets the important events correct in the right places in history. None of the baffling shuffling of the songs and events that Queen fans spotted in an instant (and too many excused) for no reason other than because reasons. Sure, it glosses over the past three decades and ignores that it's been 30 years since they had a memorable album - quick: how many albums did they release after Dr. Feelgood? (A: Four) - but how many bands really stayed artistically potent after much more than a decade? The accuracy slows the movie down as dying children and drug debilitation aren't peppy subjects, but it's non-fatal.

The performances are pretty solid especially Douglas Booth as Nikki Sixx and Colson Baker (a.k.a. rapper Machine Gun Kelly) as Tommy Lee. Tony Cavalero has a great cameo as Ozzy Osbourne, Rebekah Graf is a double-take worthy Locklear doppleganger, and I don't know who Katherine Neff is but her resemblance to ScarJo was unnerving. Nothing against his performance, but Game Of Thrones' Iwan Rheon (he was Ramsey Bolton, last seen getting his face eaten off by his dogs) distracted from his Mick Mars and Pete Davidson (label A&R weasel Tom Zutaut) just did Pete Davidson; he's not Jimmy Fallon in Almost Famous.

While book-readers may complain about this not being a miniseries with all the stories, for causal and more involved fans of Motley Crue, there's plenty enough dirt to be found in The Dirt. Want more? Go read the book, kids.

Score: 7.5/10. Watch it.


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