Anvil influenced many of the greatest metal bands of the eighties but never reached success themselves. Now, both core members are in their fifties and are still living the rock n roll life.
If you watch Anvil: The Story of Anvil and leave without a smile on your face I question your heart. You may not be a fan of heavy metal but that is ok because this movie is not about metal music as much as it is about perseverance, dedication and someone’s undying devotion to achieving a dream.
Anvil is Steve “Lips” Kudlow and Robb Reiner, two men in their fifties still working on their dream of being a successful rock ‘n’ roll band. They were a pioneer of the eighties heavy metal scene. We see at the start of the documentary that they influenced everyone from Metallica to Anthrax and have fans like Slash and Lemmy. While they receive great respect from their contemporaries they fell to the wayside and never achieved the success of the bands they influenced.
Lips now works as a driver delivering school meals while Reiner works on a demolition project. Lips explains to some fans at a concert that musicians rarely get paid. He works a shitty job, just like everyone else, and when he is able to travel and play music it is a vacation. It is this optimism by Lips, and his true love of playing music that make you want him to succeed.
Director Sacha Gervasi, a former roadie for the band who is better known as the screenwriter of The Terminal, directs the movie and shows us the band from the beginnings contrasting with their lives thirty years later. He also talks to the family of the band who has differing views of the guys’ aspirations. Reiner’s sister feels her brother needs to call it quits because the industry has passed him by but Lips’ sister has all the faith in the world her little brother will one day make it. Among all these differing opinions, childhood friends Lips and Reiner persevere on.
The documentary follows them from the highs to the lows of their career. They are booked for a tour of Europe where everything that can go wrong does. Ever the optimist, Lips realizes at least they had a tour for things to go wrong on. The entire movie leads up to a final concert in Japan where they find they are booked to play at 11:30 in the morning. It is the same turn of luck the band has had thrown their way their entire career.
But you can’t expect a downer ending in this movie. It is a true story but these guys work too hard to let you leave feeling sorry for them. The power of the film is, despite their turns of bad luck and refusal to accept maybe time has passed them by, you want them to succeed. Lips is the most likeable person you will ever see. He wears his emotions on his sleeve, evident in a scene where he apologizes for blowing up at Reiner while recording their new album. This is someone who, if he does end up falling on his face, you can not escape being devastated along with him.
When he speaks about his family, his best friend and his love for the music, you believe every word he says. There are a lot of documentaries that push your buttons to force an emotion but this one never needs to. These guys, heavy metal Gods with all the eye-rolling implications that carries, are as honest and true people as you will find. When you see Lips’ reaction when he walks onto that Japanese stage you will want to stand and cheer for him. I had never heard of Anvil before this movie but I am now a huge fan of them and hope they finally find the success they so richly deserve.
There are three deleted scenes, the first an extended version of the Choice Children’s Catering scene (07:13). The second is interviews with the other original band members discussing why they quit and what they are doing now (02:38). The final deleted scene is about Lips’ older brother who is dying and his reaction to his revelation (02:10). There is also the complete extended 30-minute interview with Lars Ulrich of Metallica.
The one thing noticeable about this documentary is the lack of complete songs in the film. You get clips of songs here and there but that is it. The special features include the Japanese performance of “School Love” from the album Hard and Heavy. What is cool about the performance is the film’s director Sacha Gervasi was brought up on stage to play the drums. Finally, there is a commentary track with Gervasi, Lips and Reiner. This is nice because the guys are so appreciative of all the support they receive from their contemporaries, their fans and their families.