Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia Reviews
Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia maintains many of Sam Peckinpah's iconic elements as a filmmaker, but the narrative is hardly as direct as it should be. Despite what the title suggests and the fact that one of the characters actually quotes it at one point, the problem is that Alfredo Garcia is a man who has already died in a car crash and so any hunt for him would be futile. As a result of this, the story becomes anticlimactic pretty fast upon uncovering this fact. The film finds ways to slowly build up its grit again through building a game about the war for possession of Alfredo Garcia's corpse , but the feature really moves along too slowly. A lot of Sam Peckinpah's films have a slow pace, but the story in Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia does not really take a positive turning point until the second act. It ends on a visually appealing note, but the finale feels too much like it is taken from The Wild Bunch anyway. The second half of Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia is better than the first, but by the time audiences get there the first half has already left things pretty dull.
The narrative in Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia is hardly that direct. It unfolds like a series of scattered plot points which all borrow familiar elements from superior Sam Peckinpah films without any sense of consistency. It is clearly a Sam Peckinpah film as it maintains elements of his style, but it is hardly one of his better features because the themes are ambiguous. Though the violence and sexuality of many of his films remain, the character study of others is hardly there in Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, even though there're is a lot of potential for there to be. There are certain points in Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia where viewers get a sense of the progressive madness inside the mind of Bennie, but for us to truly understand it we would have to get some context about who he really is as a person and why he is acting this way. All we know is that Bennie is a former United States Army Officer attempting to make a living in Mexico. Perhaps the ambiguity is intentional for the character, perhaps he is only in search of Alfredo Garcia for the money, but either way I wanted to know more about the character. Audiences learn about him through physical interactions with many intense scenarios, but there is little in the way of insight that we gain into his approach to the complicated tale at the heart of the film. The gritty mood of the story remains engaging, but entangled amidst the overly slow pace and lack of climactic stimulation that worked into more of Sam Peckinpah's gritty pieces. I guess I'm saying the problem is that Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia is a low budget film which prevents it from being a massive spectacle, even though it does have visual appeal to it, and as a result it has to focus on more intricate details such as characters and themes. Though the protagonist is interesting, he is not characterized enough and so the best thing we get out of him is the actor's performance and the way he engages with the sporadic action scenes in the film. The action scenes in Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia remains impressive because Sam Peckinpah remains the same technical mastermind, he just fails to support it with enough of a story. But either way, his role on the film is beneficial.
The film manages to go a long way on a small budget because the on-location scenery of the Mexican landscape gives a striking sense of gritty realism to the feature, providing the ideal backdrop to the story and giving it an appropriate western thematic. The colour scheme has a distinctively dirty crimson feel to it and the cinematography is appropriately iconic of Sam Peckinpah's works with all the extended shots. The visual experience of the film is effective enough, and it really does come off as genuine even though it is very easy to turn a plot like this into a generic action film very fast.
But the main thing that kept Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia engaging on any level was the leading performance of Warren Oates.
No stranger to working with Sam Peckinpah, Warren Oates brings his gritty acting talents along for the ride in Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia and gives the story the hero that it needs. He is not precisely characterized perfectly due to the absnce of sufficient narrative context, but either war Warren Oates displays a clear understanding of the character and explores him on a really effective level. Warren Oates loses himself in the madness of the character's mindset and begins the role with a sense of reluctance before slowly putting a greater sense of brimming madness into the part. He develops a more aggressive physicality and a louder voice which becomes all the more striking as his quest for the head of Alfredo Garcia becomes his own descent into the gritty underbelly of Mexico and his own mind. Warren Oates is able to effectively give it his all in Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia and his performance seems almost like a reflection of the gradually destructive lifestyle taken on by director Sam Peckinpah which would ultimately lead to his career downfall. He is the best reason to watch the film by the end of it, and his performance is strikingly memorable.
So Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia has the credibility of a strong central performance from Warren Oates and Sam Peckinpah's keen eye for imagery, but the slow moving and misleading narrative fails to carry the dramatic heft well enough to really carry well over into modern day.
Peckinpah's bizarre, bloodthirsty story of an American bartender and his girlfriend and their trip through the Mexican underworld to collect a $1 million bounty on the head of a dead gigolo. Takes a long time getting stared, but once it gets going, it never lets up for a second. Gritty photography, and effective use of locations.