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Old 02-08-2009, 05:26 PM
Sam Peckinpah's Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia

Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974)

"I'll pay a million to whoever brings me the head of Alfredo Garcia. Bring me the head of Alfredo Garcia," El Jefe says at the beginning of the film after finding out that Garcia is the one who impregnated his daughter. This sets up the main plot of the film that will include revenge, romance, and, of course, if you know Peckinpah, lots and lots of death.

The story follows our hero Bennie (Warren Oates) as he attempts to find the titular head and deliver it to some bounty hunters who have agreed to pay him $10,000 for it. Of course, the bounty hunters don't tell him about the reward of one million being offered by El Jefe (Emilio Fernández). Upon hearing from his girlfriend, a prostitute named Elita (Isela Vega), that Alfredo is already dead from a car accident, they set out to find the grave and recover the head. When they finally reach the grave, they are ambushed by others looking to cash in on the head. This results in Elita's death. From here on out, Bennie is on a mission of revenge.

This story had such a great setup which made it really disappointing that it never really goes anywhere. Even more so when you remember that Sam Peckinpah is the same man who directed "The Wild Bunch," one of the most critically acclaimed westerns of all time. There was so much more that Peckinpah and his co-writer, Gordon Dawson, could have done with this story.

The setup gives you the feeling of "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" where you have several people going after a prize that only one can claim in the end, but then we only get to see what happens to two of them. After everyone departs to look for Garcia, we are introduced to the main character of the story, Bennie. He is just a man who plays piano in a brothel, but he knows who Alfredo Garcia is, so he sets off to gather information.

He learns that his girlfriend had actually slept with Alfredo for three days and lied about it. Here's another problem; the main female character, Elita, is introduced only as a plot device, with their romance only becoming one as well. The only reason that she is introduced is so that she can lead him there, with the romance thrown in, not only so that her presence makes sense, but so that, when she dies, there is a reason for him to go on a revenge spree in the old Peckinpah fashion.

One thing that was really good about this film was the performance from Warren Oates. He brings a gritty realism to his role of Bennie. He makes us feel his love, his pain, his need to avenge the death of his would-be wife. Peckinpah was known for being an alcoholic and it is said that Bennie is a reflection of his life at this time. Bennie is seen with a bottle of alcohol and dark sunglasses throughout this film; two things that Peckinpah was also always seen with. Perhaps his hard drinking and the fact that this was very early on in Dawson's career explains why the screenplay felt really weak.

Another problem was that the film had several parts that just lulled and didn't advance the plot at all, particularly in the scenes where Bonnie and Elita are having a picnic, and when the biker attempts to rape her. Again, there was a great potential from the setup, but it just seems that the writers really didn't know what to do with the story to make it interesting. If they were going to want to make it a revenge film, they should have done so from the start and save us the trouble of sitting through superfluous fluff scenes like the picnic.

Despite all that, there were scenes in the film where you could feel the power of Peckinpah coursing through it. Particularly the climax at the end, which was a bit hard to believe, but there wasn't really any other way this film could have ended that would have made sense. Knowing this, the ending becomes satisfying enough.

It is interesting that, throughout the entire film, we never get to see the infamous head of Alfredo Garcia. However, if you pay close enough attention, the head really becomes nothing more than a symbol. Thinking back over the entire movie, there couldn't have been a more perfect symbol for how events play out. 2.5/4 stars.
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  #2  
Old 02-09-2009, 04:53 AM
It's been a while since I've seen the movie, but I remember enjoying the hell out of it. It's vintage Peckinpah with some kickass shootouts and a pretty good turn by Warren Oates . . . a regular in Peckinpah movies.

I love saying the Spanish translation of the title too: Traiganme la cabeza de Alfredo Garcia . . . just rolls off the tongue .
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