In the vast pool of naked breasts, snorting mountains of cocaine and hastily collected fragments of a large piece, “The Dirt” is depressingly limited to its awful, ill-inspired surface.
Directed by Jeff Tremaine, “The Dirt” encapsulates the whole story of the Los Angeles’ rock band, Motley Crue – from the day they met till their last show in 2015.
Biopics are a peculiar kind of cinematic experiences. A vast, overwhelming majority of them are plain fanbase pleasers, designed to use most iconic tracks in memorable settings and eventually pay a tribute to the artists. Out of this large set, only a minute part is actually deemed anything more than a dramatisation of events surrounding the film’s protagonist(s).
“The Dirt”, however, is a perfect representation of a regular biopic’s imperfections.
As I mentioned earlier, most biographical dramas struggle with leaving the comfort zone of building the statue for its protagonist. Such films tend to forget the socio-political-cultural context, often needed to fully grasp someone’s bliss.
Here’s where “The Dirt” goes deeper into the abyss – instead of looking at Motley Crue from various angles, the perspective is narrowed down to a never-ending party that’s more repelling than “cool and rock’n’roll”. It feels like emptying someone’s bladder on the spot where a statue was supposed to built.
The great mayhem starts with the very first scene, where the four horsemen, future rock legends, are introduced to the audience – at the centre of a wild party, drinking, raucous and with a random girl squirting to conclude the sequence. And what’s a better way to throw in a bright comment, like “We were a gang. A gang of fucking idiots“.
That’s badass, right?
I’ll be honest. I’m neither prim nor easily offended, but this one scene was already a sign that I should probably spend my time better than with “The Dirt”.
The rough beginning is Jeff Tremaine in action, the director, whose dossier includes mostly “Jackass” movies. And in a way, his “experience” casts a shadow on the whole story. Tremaine views Motley Crew as that gang of fucking idiots and he gets that notion through his heart. But even if they partied like hell, there was certainly a smarter way to show that and derive something more valuable from their experiences.
These problems stem from the messy script too, based on the autobiographical book of the bands’ members, and co-written by several other people. The story switches its narrators (from one band member to the other), breaks the fourth wall several times (for no reason at all) and generally bounces tone-wise from “Jackass: Rock’N’Roll Legends Edition” to “Another Movie About Musicians That Somehow Didn’t Know What Drugs Do To People“.
As a result, “The Dirt” has no spine, reminding of the Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Man – lots of movement here, but no clear direction.
And so the wind blows and arms are flailing – the four misfits are thrown into a series of randomly glued scenes. There is an attempt at an anti-drug moralizing, an ill childhood case and a mere depiction of rock stars being handicapped when it comes to handling real life. However, even if Tremaine seems to be slightly interested in any of it, a naked breast or a round butt are enough reasons to forget about that depth.
Not much can be told about the acting side neither. One standout is, quite surprisingly, Machine Gun Kelly, a.k.a. The Drummer, who – given his wild live performances as a rapper – brings a realistic feeling to the film. Still, the whole congregation lacks chemistry, as if they are a band forced to be together even on the day the meet.
I can hardly imagine the kind of audience that will swallow the amount of animal behavior, the glorification of “going crazy ya’ll” and the way a legendary band is reduced to flat half-wits. If “The Dirt” was supposed to turn me into a fan of Motley Crue, it did the actual opposite. Thank you, Netflix.
The Dirt (2019)
Dir. Jeff Tremaine
Hate Grade: 8/10