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Anvil! The Story of Anvil (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 26, 2023

Anvil! The Story of Anvil

Anvil! The Story of Anvil


Featuring Steve “Lips” Kudlow, Robb Reiner, Ivan Herd, Chris Tsangarides, Tiziana Arrigoni, Glenn Gyorffy, Slash, Lemmy, Scott Ian, Tom Araya, Lars Ulrich, Michael Schencker, Carmine Appice, Cut Loose and Mad Dog.

Directed by Sacha Gervasi.

Distributed by Ahimsa Films.  90 minutes.  Not Rated.

This film about an aging rock band on the road has been getting compared left and right to the classic 80s satirical mock-documentary This is Spinal Tap.  It details the trials and tribulations of Anvil – an aging heavy metal band which never quite caught on, but is still holding on over twenty years after their very brief heyday.  Anvil shows the soul-crushing ridiculousness of life on the road.  The film’s comically redundant title just seems so stupid that it weirdly becomes kind of clever.  The footage features band fights, getting lost on the way to shows, old friends determined to rock, sound knobs that go to 11, nearly empty gigs, Stonehenge, even a triumphant comeback gig in Japan.  The drummer of Anvil is even named Robb Reiner – not to be confused with Rob Reiner, the director of Spinal Tap.

However, with all these things in common, there is one huge thing that separates Anvil! – The Story of Anvil from This is Spinal Tap.

Anvil is all real.

Coming out of Canada in the early 80s, Anvil was a pioneering force in the hair metal brigades.  Early in their career, the film shows, they did a rock festival in Japan with three other then mostly unknown bands – The Scorpions, Whitesnake and Bon Jovi.  Within five years, all of those bands were multi-platinum, but Anvil – despite releasing four respected albums on a major label and later many indie releases – was pretty much forgotten.

Well, not forgotten, I suppose.  The opening of Anvil! shows a bunch of musicians who came in their wake – including Slash from Guns ’N’ Roses, Lars Ulrich from Metallica and Lemmy from Motorhead (who actually predated the band) praising the band as a terrific musical force and a huge influence.  Of course, some of these testimonials could be a little backhanded, like when Anthrax leader Scott Ian suggests that Anvil inspired them because they felt if their band couldn’t do better than Anvil, they didn’t deserve to be musicians.  (In fairness, I didn’t get the feeling that Ian recognized how dismissive his quote was when he was making it…)

One other person who remembered Anvil was former journalist-turned-screenwriter Sacha Gervasi, who is best known for writing the script to Stephen Spielberg’s comedy The Terminal with Tom Hanks and Catherine Zeta-Jones.  An early fan of Anvil – he also was a roadie for them in the early 80s glory days – Gervasi put his own money into this film, his directorial debut, in which he hoped to restore Anvil’s reputation as well as get their music out there.

Gervasi has tapped into a fascinating story – a story that is as uplifting as it is often humorous.  However, just because there are some real laughs in Anvil!, don’t think that the film is mocking the group.  Anvil! is ridiculous in all the ways that rock and roll music can be ridiculous, but mostly it is the story of two men who hold onto their dream long after other people – and perhaps even common sense – tell them to give it up.

By holding on to that dogged determination to be stars the two major cogs of Anvil – lead singer Steve “Lips” Kudlow and drummer Robb Reiner have done no one harm but themselves.  Even that is debatable – had they given up their dreams, yes they may have made a little more money and better lives for themselves, but at the same time they would not have experienced many fascinating things.  As Lips suggests after a disastrous European tour which ranged from major halls to tiny bars, everything went wrong, but it could have been even worse if there had not been a tour for everything to fall apart during.

Therefore Anvil! – The Story of Anvil is really about the physical need of some people to make art.  While I personally have to admit I am not a huge fan of their music, I respect the hell out of Lips.  Here is a man who takes a job that he can’t stand – driving a truck delivering food to Toronto school cafeterias – just to pay the bills, but performs his music for the sheer love of it.

Some may say that Lips is delusional to think he can still make it as a rock star now that he is in his 50s, but that’s really not the point.  Their music gives Anvil drive and purpose and passion.  Stardom may be a pie-in-the-sky dream, but who is anyone to begrudge the man taking his best shot?

The world always needs more dreamers – and I am glad to have been introduced to these two unsung rock heroes.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2009 All rights reserved. Posted: April 25, 2009.

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