Anvil! The Story of Anvil
Directed by Sacha Gervasi
Whether you’re a heavy metal fan or not, you’ll appreciate Sacha Gervasi’s documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil as it lays out the surprisingly inspiring story of the Canadian 80s metal band whose star failed to rise, and how even after 30 years of disappointment, the two fearless friends who started it all maintain their never-say-die attitude.
The movie careens into action with flashback footage of a 1984 Japanese metal fest featuring Anvil alongside bands like Scorpions, Whitesnake and Bon Jovi. Anvil’s lead singer Lips dressed in bondage gear, slides a dildo across the strings of his guitar while taunting the thrashing crowd with his playful smile. Testimonials from members of some of metal’s biggest bands like Metallica, Motorhead and Slayer describe Anvil as the “real deal” and yet no one really understands why the band, in all their torn mesh, big hair and pioneering sound, never made it to the top.
Present day, and the crisp Canadian winter numbs a Toronto suburb where lead singer Steve Kudlow (a.k.a. Lips) and drummer Robb Reiner stand on the streets where they grew up, having met each other in their early teens. Both now partake in menial labour jobs which Reiner describes as his “psychoactive therapy sessions,” jack hammering away on what looks like a home reno while Kudlow delivers food for Children’s Choice Catering. Reiner, the stoic introvert, spends his free time painting, while Kudlow, the eternal optimist, is a devoted family man who sees the world through a boyish naiveté.
The band embarks with new-found hope on a poorly-managed European tour that goes drastically wrong with shady club owners refusing to pay, missed trains and long nights in airports. They arrive back after five weeks of sweat and frustration, unpaid and disillusioned. Boatloads of debt, internal fighting and last-ditch attempts at getting their latest album out to fans furthers the heart-wrenching portrait of the indie rock band and the crushing nature of time in such a youth-obsessed industry.
Reminiscent of Spinal Tap (directed by…Rob Reiner), this sentimental story is raw and unassuming as Gervasi, former roadie for the band, takes a thoughtful look inside the lives of two headbangers who, determined and perhaps even delusional, never gave up on their dreams.