Renowned guitarist Slash helps open Sacha Gervasi’s documentary on the band Anvil saying they helped inspire the metal movement in ’80s rock, but he also ends it by noting that despite Anvil never achieving the fame expected of them, that they’ve stayed together — which a lot of bands can’t say they have. That’s the spirit of Gervasi’s film, which goes beyond the trials of a band still after a dream 30 years in the making to show the people that really make the experience worth it.
The film begins with footage of Ontario-based metal band Anvil’s big break, sharing a stage with the likes of Whitesnake and Bon Jovi in Japan back in the ’80s, a show that would end up being their fifteen minutes of fame as opposed to the start of an illustrious music career. Founding members Steve “Lips” Kudlow (vocals, guitar) and Robb Reiner (drums) began playing music together at 14 and now in their 50s, enjoy the occasional penniless side gig in addition to their everyman day jobs.
Pity is the chief emotion you feel when watching these men and their bandmates go through what they do. Countless bands become victim to the corporate music machine and never live up to their potential, going unrewarded for their passion and devotion to the craft. But Anvil is different. These men have been in dedication and talent limbo for three decades yet they’ve never ditched the dream. It’s one thing to be young and come up short, but to be 50 with a family and not letting go is another.
Lips Kudlow as the doc’s main subject creates the emotional connection for the viewer. He wears his emotions on his sleeve and his mood swings abruptly at times. Gervasi captures moments of anger and moments of tears equally and both types of scenes carry the same power. It’s easy to dig into the psychology of a passionate man who can’t always keep his head on his shoulders. You understand him and understand why he and Robb have been buddies for so long despite their arguments. So many subtle symbols throughout suggest a lot about what these 30 years have been like for these guys.
“Anvil! The Story of Anvil” is an underdog documentary unlike any other. It’s founded on music but it focuses the very things that music forges above all else: connections between people and to a raw, passionate energy. Even if you hate metal, you will remember why it is that music is such an essential part of being human when you watch this documentary.
Anvil! The Story of Anvil
Directed by Sacha Gervasi