Anvil! The Story of Anvil

With “Anvil! The Story of Anvil,” British Sacha Gervasi, better known as screenwriter than helmer, has made a touching, quite funny nonfictional work that blurs the lines between a documentary and mockumentary a la “This Is Spinal Tap.”

Indeed, inevitable comparisons will be made to Rob Reiner's cult movie of 1984, which has inspired countless imitators and follow-ups.  “Anvil” stands on his own feet, but I think viewers will enjoy its distinctive merits if they put aside their fond memories of “Spinal Tap.”

“Anvil!” world-premiered in the Wolrd Documentary section of the 2008 Sundance Film Festival and is now, over a year later, being theatrically released before making bigger waves on DVD.

“Anvil!” belongs to a subgenre of features, which includes Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky's “Metallica: Some Kind of Monster” (2004), a chronicle of that band's collective therapy, as well as Tony Montana and Mark Brian Smith's “Overnight” (2003), which offers a look at wannabe filmmakers and rockers.

Garvasi's tale concerns a promising Canadian heavy metal band named Anvil and their risky, ambitious, and humorus efforts to score big.  Problem is, they are not young.   At middle-age—in their 50s–they begin to realize that big success may not be in their cards.

But above all, the movie bears many similarities to “Spinal Tap.”  For starters, the drumer's name is Robb Reiner (an homage to Spinal's auteur Rob Reiner?).  Then there is the happy (well, sort of happy) ending, the band's triumphant return to Japan after 20 years, which also recalls Reiner's work.

We get a first glimpse on the quartet circa 1984, when they are just about to reach stardom, when they shared the stage with Bon Jovi and Whitesnake.  We then follow the band as they embrak on a mismanaged European tour, which is replete of mishaps and misunderstandings, playing in front of metal fans in some remote Croatian bar, populated by younsgters.  Along the way, we get to met devoted  fans like “Cut Loose” and “Mad Dog,” guys who follow them around.


Rockers Slash, Lemmy Kilmister and Lars Ulrich praise the virtues of the little-known Canadian band of misfits, and interviews with spouses, parents, and siblings offer more detached insights about the eccentric musicians, their enduring, tireless sacrifices (blood-and-sweat) and the impact of their lifestyles on them.

What makes Gervasi's work stand out is the sunny nature of its (anti) heroes, who are all dedicated, charistmatic and appealing, and not just drummer Reiner or lead singer Steve “Lips” Kudlow.  You've got to hand the group members their stamina, optimism, and durability; after all, they have been playing together for more than three decades.

To his credit, director Gervasi doesn't pretend to offer an objective or detached look; he loves the band too much to do that.  How can you not feel sympathy for founders vocalist Steve “Lips” Kudlow and drummer Robb Reiner, who hold a “day” job in Toronto to support their respective families, while not giving up their old dreams.


End result is a poignant and amusing film, which is not the least condescending or seeking pathos for its subjects.  Perhaps not ironically, it's “Anvil!” the movie that will put the band on the map in ways that go beyond their real efforts to succeed.


Steve “Lips” Kudlow
Robb Reiner
Ivan Herd
Chris Tsangarides
Tiziana Arrigoni
Cut Loose
Mad Dog
Lars Ulrich
Scott Ian
Tom Araya


A Little Dean and Ahimsa Films production.
Produced by Rebecca Yeldham.
Co-producer, Chris Soos.
Directed by Sacha Gervasi.
Camera: Chris Soos.
Editors: Jeff Renfroe, Andrew Dickler.
Original music/sound, Mat Dennis; music supervisor, Dana Sano.
Supervising sound editor, Geoffrey G. Rubay.

Running time: 90 Minutes.