The first thing I thought when I heard about this movie was, “Holy shit! A documentary about Anvil?!” Yes, folks, I remember Anvil. I was a metalhead in high school and college, and once a metalhead, always a metalhead, right? Right!
My response might not too unusual for the once die-hard metal community, but for most everyone else I suspect the responses were, “A documentary about who?” Such things happen in the music industry, regardless of the musical genre. I know stories of bands who fell into obscurity because their record company just decided one day to stop promoting them, even though they had gained some significant success.
But sometimes a band slips away for less obvious reasons. Anvil, pretty much THE Canadian heavy metal band, was formed by friends Steve “Lips” Kudlow, and Robb Reiner. As young teens, they made a pact to rock out together forever. Turns out, they were serious. And yet, most of the rest of the world weren’t able to follow. And the reason for that, no one really knows.
Anvil released one the heaviest metal albums of the genre in 1982, “Metal on Metal”. Well-known and exceedingly successful musicians like Lars Ulrich of Metallica, Scott Ian of Anthrax, Slash of Guns and Roses, Tom Araya of Slayer, and even Lemmy of Motorhead were associates, fans, and even looked to Anvil for their inspiration. But after a few short years of climbing as a popular rising star in metal music, something happened: Anvil seemed to just fall off the map.
This movie answers that ever nagging question, “What ever happened to…?” This movie starts out as almost a “Spinal Tap”, it’s funny. Really funny. But with each subsequent minute, we witness things that are often less funny and more frustrating and not just a little heartbreaking.
The film is written and directed by Sacha Gervasi, who some might remember as the writer of the Steven Spielberg film, “The Terminal”. After meeting Anvil in London, he later toured with them as a roadie in the summer of 1983, and twice more in the 80’s. This gives us a rather intimate look into both Steve “Lips” Kudlow and Robb Reiner’s daily lives; Lips” driving a delivery van during the day while taking care of his wife and family. These guys struggle like many people do. We see them go on what promises to be the biggest international tour they’ve done in years, only to play in bars of twenty people, sometimes less. It’s anything but big hotels, fancy cars and throngs of millions of fans crowding them at all times for these guys, but they push onward nonetheless. Why? Because playing music is what they love.
Ultimately, this is a deeply human story; the story of two friends with a dream to be rock stars; to be successful at what they love most: their music. It is their passion for this that has kept them going now for some 30 years. The journey is full of humor, and heartbreak, yet, when it’s over, one can not deny feeling hope for these guys. I want them to succeed! It’s such an amazing ride, I can’t recommend this movie enough. If you like music, if you like humor, if you like human drama, this documentary has it. Go see it!
–Neil T. Weakley, your average movie-goer, happy to see a movie I can actually recommend for a change!