Anvil! The Story Of Anvil Movie Review
Founded by guitarist and lead singer Steve "Lips" Ludlow and drummer Robb Reiner in 1978, the band's in-your-face heavy metal bludgeoning (Lips had a penchant for performing in a bondage harness, waving an impressive dildo at the audience and using a woman's vibrator as a guitar slide), and its seminal Metal on Metal album in 1982, set the standard for metalhead rock to come.
Gervasi starts his journey to Anvil's lower depths at its height, during the 1984 Super Rock Festival in Japan, where the band played to thousands with the likes of the Scorpions, Whitesnake, and Bon Jovi. Testifying to their influence on Metallica, Motorhead, Anthrax, Guns N' Roses, and Slayer are Lars Ulrich, Lemmy, Scott Ian, Slash, and Tom Arayo. On camera, Slash muses, "I don't know why they never made it big. Sometimes life deals you a tough deck. As big an influence as they had on anybody, everybody just sort of ripped them off and left them for dead."
Gervasi then makes a jarring cut from Anvil's 1984 concert heyday to the band members today. Reiner is seen working housing construction and hating every minute of it ("I'd rather be on-stage than do this. It's part of my psycho-active therapy session"). Lips, the ever optimistic voice of the film, is working as a delivery man for a children's food service company -- "For all the shit I go through, I've still got Anvil and it works out really good. Even though Anvil doesn't get my pay, it gives me the joy and pleasure you need to get through life." That joy and pleasure will soon be sorely tested.
Following Anvil through a five-week European tour booked by sultry Anvil fan Tziana Arrigoni (who later went on to marry one of the new Anvil band members), the tour is a complete disaster, and Gervasi diligently charts the ever-mounting humiliations -- unable to travel on the already-booked-up trains, getting lost in Prague en route to a small gig at a local dive where the owner stiffs them of cash but gives them bowls of goulash, attending a sparsely populated gig in Munich where instead of a promotional blitz Anvil is greeted by hand-written posters, and getting stuck in an airport overnight. As Lips remarks, "This is so fucking unprofessional what we are going through it's sad." The whole catastrophe culminates in Romania where they perform at a 10,000 seat arena to a crowd of only 174 fans.
But still Lips perseveres, which is all anyone still retaining an ounce of passion in their heart can do. Lips and Reiner bankrupt themselves to put together a new album that engenders no interest -- an EMI rep tells them "It's a bit of a challenge; the landscape has changed." But still Anvil forges ahead. As Lips lectures his few fans, "I work everyday just like everybody else. I'm a regular person. Right now I'm on vacation. I leave my job and I come to rock n' roll. I go back and it's back to the same old bullshit."
Gervasi could have made Anvil! The Story of Anvil a bleak, hopeless exercise in futility a la Wim Wenders. Instead, Gervasi hails that indomitable spirit of hope that keeps not only unpopular rock groups but even, say, online film critics going. As long as people have the fire burning in their souls, they will keep on keeping on in spite of the deck that is stacked against them. And this air of conviction makes Anvil! an ultimately buoyant homage to the indomitability of Lips and Robb and their ongoing dream. Even though moments of denial threaten Lips' resolve ("How much more can a fucking person put all their fucking love and dedication into something? How much more can a person go?"), in the end, Anvil is still on the road heading for another joint... as long as they can get time off from work.
Can't afford electric lights, either.