“Anvil: The Story of Anvil” is a 2008 documentary film by Sacha Gervasi. It tells the story of – you guessed it – Anvil.
Anvil is a Canadian heavy metal band formed in 1973 by then high school friends Steve “Lips” Kudlow and Robb Reiner. Together they took the band to a certain level of success in the early to mid 1980s, tantalizingly close to the top of the Heavy Metal music scene. Their major breakthrough and the accompanying fame and fortune eluded them however.
They never really “Made it Big”.
The movie begins with highlights from the “Super Rock” festival in Japan in 1984. The Scorpions, Whitesnake, and Bon Jovi are all participating in the same concert that Anvil is. Of course, those acts all went on to achieve massive success in the music industry. Anvil did not.
There’s a brief montage then of Heavy Metal Superstars discussing Anvil. Slash, Lemmy, Lars Ulrich, Scott Ian and others all concur… Anvil was a talented band, and should have been bigger than they were.
Fast forward to 2005, where Anvil is currently residing in the “Where are they now file”.
Reiner and Kudlow both have day jobs, as a construction worker and a deliveryman respectively. Yet they stubbornly refuse to let go of their dreams. Not only is the band still together, they’re preparing to tour Europe, and are arranging for a producer and funding for studio time for their 13th album, the aptly titled “This is Thirteen”.
It’s as “Spinal Tap” as it sounds, except to these guys, it’s not a joke. They’re living the life of small crowds, botched opportunities, logistical snafus and financial difficulties. The tour they go on is a mismanaged nightmare that makes you wonder why anyone would want to put themselves through this. There are blown gigs, missed gigs, language barriers, small crowds, no crowds, they get stiffed, they get paid but it’s not worth it, they sleep in train stations, there’s about every sort of problem and difficulty that you can imagine in conducting a small tour through several foreign countries with poor management. The strain of it is incredible, and it’s clearly shown to be wearing them both down.
Gervasi interviews a number of people from the bands’ personal lives. Their early years and the story of the formation of the band is recounted. Some of these people are proud of the two for reaching the heights that they did, and for staying with their dreams. Others however are more candid about the fact that they just don’t get it. So many sacrifices have been made to keep the dream alive, that it would have made for a better life for each of them if they had just let go.
Don’t tell that to these guys though, as they push through their album, and then head off for Japan.
Gervasi is clearly a talented filmmaker. She takes the raw footage of this band’s struggles and molds it into a testimony about the human spirit. These two endure indignities that by every right, should make them give up. But they push forward doggedly. Their single-mindedness of purpose is alternately baffling and inspiring. Insurmountable obstacles are placed in their paths and you wonder if they even notice, as they begin finding their way over or through or around anyways.
In the end, the movie leaves you believing in the power of hope.
And there’s no greater message to carry than that.
I think the best thing that I can say about this movie is that I’ve given it as a gift. More than once. It has a 98% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and it’s currently available on Netflix watch instantly, where it enjoys a solid five-star rating.