“It’s a f*cking war out there, and the only way we win is if by showing these kids something they have never seen before,” Nikki Sixx proclaims this at the start of the band’s journey. This is Mötley Crüe.
Mötley Crüe may not be a typical icon for most young children, but “Girls, Girls, Girls” and “Shout at the Devil” may as well have been Radio Disney (or whatever else kids listen to these days) for my brother and I growing up.
Needless to say, I was frickin’ stoked when I found out the book written by the misfits of MC and author Neil Strauss was being turned into a biopic.
However, as I started watching the film after its Netflix release on March 22, initial concerns flooded over me. I mean, did you see how FLAT their hair was compared to the real deal?
All jokes aside, I was intrigued to see how the biopic would portray the rampant substance abuse and overall debauchery of the band’s glory days, and I wasn’t disappointed.
For beginners, the casting was great. Iwan Rheon captured the collected and “big brother” tone of Mick Mars, Douglas Booth’s heart was on his sleeve as the severely damaged and lost soul that is Nikki Sixx, Daniel Webber as the charismatic and complex Vince Neil and, my personal favorite, Machine Gun Kelly as Tommy Lee.
The leading scene of the biopic captures the savage party culture surrounding the group during their heyday, complete with public performances of oral sex (and the corresponding cross-room jet stream of bodily fluids, naturally), gross magnitudes of your favorite drugs of choice and reckless shenanigans like no other.
This iconic scene is then followed by the child form of Nikki, then known as Frankie, slicing and dicing his own arm, calling law enforcement and ultimately attempting to imprison his mother after an argument. Oh, and he smashes his guitar like a true future rockstar. While this interaction isn’t integral to the plot of the film, it does introduce you to the massively flawed character that even those who wouldn't consider themselves MC fans learn to love throughout the film.
The film ultimately details the, to be generous, humble beginnings of MC, following them through their first sets of shows, and eventually nationwide tour that led to their rise in fame.
The first show they ever played was especially emphasized, with a full-blown fight scene, overlaid with hindsight “commentary” on the ridiculous situation, ultimately resulting in a disgruntled audience member screaming “MOTLEY F*CKING CRUEEEE!” thus breaking up the fight and allowing MC to embark on a tongue-in-cheek, gnarly jam sesh.
Their blurred rise to fame was rightfully accompanied by fabricated tour footage and their thematically-accurate bop “Take Me To The Top.”
My personal favorite scene in the entire hour-and-48-minute trip features Nikki and Tommy pouring fake blood over a mannequin head, blowing an O, snorting the residual smoke from the air and engaging in a celebratory and endearing high five. This scene is not only reflective of the Crue’s absurd and cynical childlike behavior, but also begins to hint at the emotional disturbances present in the band’s members.
Eventually, the audience is introduced to band manager Doc McGhee (played beautifully by David Costabile) who serves as the voice of reason and grounding figure for the band, going so far as to allegedly handcuff the members to their hotel room beds once they got too intoxicated while on tour.
In the film, McGhee discusses how, despite the fact that he had previously managed other notoriously destructive artists like the Scorpions, Bon Jovi, KISS and Skid Row — stating that he had been “dragged through the deepest shit with all kinds of mentally ill people” — he had never been through what Mötley Crüe put him through.
While Ozzy claims he doesn’t remember the scene where he snorts a line of ants, pisses on the ground, then proceeds to lick up his own urine, I think it’s pretty representative of the values that MC held in those early tour years: being as f*cked up and controversial as possible.
However, this narrative takes a definitive halt as this toxic lifestyle catches up to the band and their personal lives, characterized by Tommy hitting his fiancee, the advancement of Mick’s ankylosing spondylitis, the death of the English drummer Razzle after Vince crashes their car in a substance-ridden bender, Nikki’s growing heroin addiction and eventually his outburst against his mother who unwisely asked if his song “Looks That Kill” was, in fact, about her.
The peak point of tension in the film took place at Tommy’s wedding, where Nikki, who was the best man, was high off his ass the entire day.
“If you’ve got a hole in your heart, I guess you’ve got to fill it with something. And he was filling it with $1,000 a day in heroin.”
The film doesn’t shy away from the glamorous and destructive sides of being a rockstar, especially regarding Nikki’s addiction. I was concerned that the filmmakers would choose only one side of the narrative and run with it, which could have had detrimental social impacts, but I think the balance was very well done.
Nikki, who was sober after MC’s bout of rehab, went as far as to make the harrowing statement, “I used to never be able to feel anything, but now I can feel everything.”
Everything is not sunshine and roses from this point out however, as Vince left the band and lost his daughter, Mick continued to decline in terms of his bone disease, Tommy became single after having one of his many affairs leaked in the media and Nikki continued to struggle with adjusting to sobriety.
Yet, the band got back together, and reigned supreme for another 20 years of rock. The film thus pans to their first reunion concert, and the credits show a side-by-side reel of actual and fabricated footage, which was harrowing, nostalgic and everything it needed to be.
The whirlwind of the film captures the pain, love and lust associated with being a rockstar, and the consistent usage of breaking the fourth wall ultimately reinforces the bond that music and culture can create among those with a shared, broken identity.
"That’s fate, that’s family, and that’s Mötley f*ckin Crüe.”
Final Grade: B+
Sam Jones is an almanac editor for the Daily Cardinal. To read more of her work, click here.