64 of 72 people found the following review helpful
on March 30, 2005
The above is a line that Warren Oates as Benny delivers after one of the villains in suits calls him a loser. It's one of many dialogic gems in this volatile film, which vies with Straw Dogs as Sam Peckinpah's greatest movie of the 1970s. The title is so in your face that you expect a non-stop bloodbath but Peckinpah's after something else here, something that few directors or audiences have had the backbone to deal with. He takes a main character who looks, acts, and dresses like a loser in so many ways, and makes him human, vulnerable, tragic, and somehow moral in a world full of ruthless men corrupted by their almost absolute power. You know from the start that the movie won't end prettily, yet with Peckinpah at the helm, Oates in the male lead and the ravishing Isela Vega his doomed companion, a host of great character actors sinking their teeth into the rotting meat of their roles, and a vision of Mexico conveyed in stark but lyrical images, you have to take the ride with Benny all the way to the bitter end. In quantity of killings, this is not very violent as Peckinpah films go, certainly not close to The Wild Bunch, Pat Garrett, or Cross of Iron. But the mood is so somber and bleak that it will test the strongest viewer threshold. There is also the trademark sly Peckinpah humor throughout, whistling through the graveyard with a bottle of tequila in one hand and a gun in the other. Some will call this misogynistic--yes, it depicts hate toward women but it doesn't endorse it. What Peckinpah is after is a wholesale condemnation of the human race, except for those few, like Benny, who recognize the farce for what it is and live and die with their choices, taking as many of the S.O.B.'s with them as they can, on their way down. A masterpiece.
40 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on December 8, 2002
Bring the Head of Alfredo Garcia is a rough film. It wasn't for the faint hearted back in '74 and it stil isn't. So many people got killed that I lost count. It depicts a brutal, filthy world and doesn't have an uplifting golly gee ending. I loved it. Warren Oates gave his finest performance as Benny, an American small timer who has one last chance to make it big. Benny is so cool he never takes off his shades even in bed. He doesn't hesitate to kill the bad yet his personal code won't allow him to harm the innocent.
The actress who plays his girlfriend is perfect. She's attractive but in a beat up been-around-the-block-too-many-times way. She spends a lot of time nude or semi nude in this movie but it's not cheap. She's a semi retired prostitute afterall. She ought to be a throw away character but she isn't. She's Benny's heart and although he doesn't know it, she, not dead Alfredo Garcia, is his last chance.
Yes, this is an ugly film but it's incredible. Put the kids to bed early, buy the video and sit back to watch a movie that still shocks and dazzles.
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on March 1, 2001
The more time I spend with this film - and I've watched it close to a dozen times by now - the more humbled I am by the unflinching bleakness of its vision. Viewers who insist on approaching it as a Hollywood "action" movie will never be able to get past the deliberate, taunting belligerence of the title and plot. Before they will be able to discern it as the masterpiece heralded by Roger Ebert, the Amazon editorial reviewer, and myself, they will need to understand it as an "Under the Volcano"-ish dark-night-of-the-soul cri de coeur - an alcoholic suicide note found in a sleazy motel bed.
One of the movie's boldest achievements is its shattering of the lingering glamour attached to the concept of the filmic "anti-hero". Humphrey Bogart's Sam Spade may be unsentimental about the death of his partner and thoughtlessly exploitative of his devoted secretary, but he's still an irresistably attractive figure. He's savvy and fearless... he's Humphrey Bogart, for God's sake! Bennie (a fearless, appalling performance by the under-appreciated Warren Oates) on the other hand is simply, as one of the really-bad guys insultingly brands him, "a loser" - a seedy piano player in a cheap suit cynically going through the motions for bored tourists and dead-eyed prostitutes in a dingy Mexican bar. [No wonder he wears his huge, pitch-black sunglasses even indoors. There's a lot he doesn't want to see.] He's pained by memories of better times. ["That was a classy place," he reminisces about one of his former gigs. "Classy people came in there."] When his girlfriend (played by the luscious Isela Vega) - a madonna/whore in the classic Peckinpah mold - gives him crabs, he tries to kill them by pouring booze into his boxer shorts. ["Change the sheets, darling," he grumbles.] The viewer will *not* want to identify with him.
But identify with him we must. Because his world is our world - one of hideous buildings, despoiled nature, soulless "entertainment", and ruthless killers cum "businessmen". [One of whom disgustedly entices Benny towards his fateful assignment by observing - as any of our bosses might say to get us to work at a job we hate, "You want money, don't you? Money you can spend?"] And that tragic flaw of his - choosing money (which is death) over love (which is life) - is our flaw as well.
The portrayal of the relationship between the fugitive lovers is also an act of ballsy iconoclasm on Peckinpah's part. It's one thing to posit a pure, eternal, "Born to Run" love against the encroaching doom - like "Romeo and Juliet". It's another to disgracefully admit that our nobler impulses are inevitably tainted and undermined by our sordid natures. Bennie and Elita love each other as best they can - which is never quite good enough - and it breaks my heart every time.
As you can tell by now, this film is not about "excitement". (Even the moments of Peckinpah's signature balletic, slow-motion gunplay have a tired, disillusioned feel to them - as if he was starting to realize that behind his fascination with the peculiar authority of violent death was just the meaningless mess of a bleeding body sprawled on the dirt.) It will not make you feel good. What it *will* do is challenge you to meditate on some of the most despairing aspects of the human condition. Types like Michael "The Toupeed Sissy" Medved - who put the film on his 50 All-Time Worst list - are obviously not up for that challenge. But those who are will find the consolations of Art - such as they are - as their reward.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on August 16, 1999
Greasey repulsive loser Warren Oates is in love with a whore. As a matter of fact that is the only thing he has going for him. But he believes he also needs money to make him happy. By chasing after the money, his loved one dies. And as he continues to persue the money he finds that no amount of money will now take her place.
19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on March 12, 2006
Truly a great film by Sam Peckinpah with Warren Oates performing masterfully. It starts out somewhat slow and builds the plot til Oates is out for revenge in Peckinpah fashion! Look for Kris Kristofferson as a bad guy biker who gets his just deserves; also Gig Young and Robert Webber as a couple cold ruthless hitmen out to get the prize for their boss. Note that the Mexican land baron is the same fellow who played the general in Peckinpah's "Wild Bunch". All in all a great film full of action and revenge as only Sam Peckinpah could do it! I saw this as a teenager on "Telecinema" in the 70's (the original pay-per-view!) and it is just as powerful now as ever. They don't make movies like this anymore!
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on July 23, 1999
Either this or "Cockfighter" is Warren Oates' best performance, and that is saying something. This film lacks the pace of some of Peckinpah's other movies, but watching Oates makes it worthwhile. Particularly effective are his discussions with the head.
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on March 10, 2001
The basic story is this: The daughter of a Mexican aristocrat (crime lord?) is pregnant. He compells her, through torture, to reveal the identity of her child's father: one Alfredo Garcia. The father promise a million cash to whoever brings him the head of Alfredo Garcia. His henchman disseminate, and find themselves questioning people in a seedy piano bar, one of whom is Benny, Oates' character. They enlist him to bring *them* the head of Alfredo Garcia, in return for the 10K, and so he sets out on his search/journey, with his sidekick and lover, a Mexican prostitute.
This is the sort of movie that will not easily find a wide audience...as indeed it has not. Some people love it; some hate it. The protagonist is...well, anti-heroic doesn't quite describe what he is. He is by any civilized standard a loathsome creature...willing to kill a man he doesn't know for a $10,000 bounty...It is hard to sympathize with such a creature, and we are accustomed to our movie heroes adhering to strict Hollywood codes of honor and morality, or at least to be penitent when they don't. I think this is why people--and critics in particular--find movies of such moral ambiguity as this one (or, think of Mel Gibson in "Payback") hard to appreciate.
Still, compared to most of the other characters in "Alfredo Garcia," Benny IS sympathetic. Given his world of grinding, unforgiving harshness & despair, and given the seediness of his life and his narrow range of choices, it is understandable (if not forgiveable) that he might resort to desperate measures to haul himself out of his pit. Even within his questionable moral parameters, though, he does seem to live by a certain code. He doesn't kill gratuitously. He is able to love. In his bleak world, that's something. This is a story of an arguably bad man (arguably if we agree that a person is not defined by his worst moments)making the wrong choices in order to redeem his life.
51 of 69 people found the following review helpful
on March 31, 2005
You know, if I had chosen the title for this film, I would have gone with `Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, and Put Some Sizzle on it!' What? It doesn't work for you? Well, I guess I can cross `Movie Titler' off my list of possible career choices...let's see, what's next on the list...chicken farmer? Nuts...but seriously, the title of this film is Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974), written and directed by `Bloody' Sam Peckinpah (The Wild Bunch), a man whose humble beginnings in Hollywood stemmed from his occupying a shack behind Ida Lupino's house (hey, I read it on the Internet Movie Database). The film stars Warren `Quaker' Oates (Major Dundee, The Wild Bunch) and Isela Vega (The Deadly Trackers). Also appearing is Robert Webber (Revenge of the Pink Panther), Gig Young (They Shoot Horses, Don't They?), Emilio Fernández (Return of the Seven, The Wild Bunch), and Kris Kristofferson in an early bit part, prior to his true star-making role as `Rubber Duck' in the seminal trucker film Convoy (1978) that was directed by none other than Sam Peckinpah...see how I tied that all together? Impressed? Probably not...
As the film begins, we're treated to a scene of tranquility as a young, Hispanic woman with a noticeable belly bulge is sitting on the edge of a pond. We soon learn the girl is the daughter of a wealthy Mexican landowner (Fernández) and someone named Alfredo Garcia has impregnated her out of wedlock. For the shame now brought on to his house, the landowner issues a $1,000,000 dollar bounty on this Garcia fellow, and so the manhunt begins. The lure of a large wad of cash draws a local bartender named Bennie (Oates) in, as it seems he may have knowledge of where Garcia is, based on a relationship Garcia may have had with Bennie's girlfriend Elita (Vega)...boy, this Garcia is quite the lothario...anyway, Bennie is given four days to find Garcia, so he and Elita hit the road. They eventually do find the million-dollar man, but circumstances lead to Bennie getting the double cross via the flat end of a shovel upside the noggin. With a bandage on his head, a gun in his waistband, and a gut full of tequila, Bennie finds himself on a nihilistic path of retribution from which there's no turning back...
Is this Peckinpah's best film? Hardly...that distinction will always go to The Wild Bunch, but this one is still pretty good, and a heck of a lot better than the films he made afterwards. I think the most interesting thing about this film is the sense that Oates was channeling Peckinpah through his character of Bennie, in his obstinacies, stubbornness, being a general pain in the rear, and was shown continually working on bottles of booze (Peckinpah had quite the affinity for the stuff, among other mind-altering substances). Given Bennie's predicaments throughout the film, I can fully understand why his necessity for the dulling effects of sweet, sweet alcohol was needed. There are no apparent heroes here, as this is just a dirty, greasy, grimy, seedy, sweaty, dingy tale of less than admirable men driven to extremes. Anything wrong with that? Certainly not...it tends to inure the film with harsh sense of reality as we witness the base qualities inherent within all of us, whether we will admit to it or not...we're all sinners, some just more visible than others. One thing I like about Peckinpah's films is he rarely pulled any punches when it came to violence directed towards men or women (especially women). Sure, there's a undeniable misogynistic quality present, but these actions never go unanswered as the devil always gets his due (at least in this film). I thought all the actors here did very well, especially Oates...I'm curious as to what was in the sack when he was driving back after finding Garcia. Oh, I know what was supposed to be in their with regards to the story, but I'm wondering what they actually put in the sack given its ability to attract so many winged pests...I could sense the funk coming out of my television....maybe that's something I don't want to know...if you're a fan of the violence, then you've come to the right place. Peckinpah's trademark usage of slow-mo is in full effect here, allowing for the study of what happens when bullets rend flesh. Some things to watch for...if you've ever had a desire to see Isela Vega (who, incidentally, was Princess of the Carnival in Hermosillo for the year 1957) in the buff, here's your chance. Have you ever wanted to see Gig Young getting jiggy with a machine gun? I did, but didn't know it until after I saw this film. Gig's relationship with guns would take a more serious, realistic tone a mere four years later as he, prior to shooting himself, killed his newlywed wife German actress Kim Schmidt under mysterious circumstances (Young was known to problems with the alcohol and lost out on the role of The Waco Kid to Gene Wilder in Mel Brook's Blazing Saddles due to suffering from delirium tremors). Keep an eye out for Kris Kristofferson in a minor role as a greasy biker. I didn't recognize him at first, but he seemed awful familiar.
The wide screen picture (1.85:1), enhanced for 16 X 9 TVs, looks sharp and clear on this DVD. I was a little disappointed in the Dolby Digital 2.1 Mono as it was very soft at times and hard to make out. As far as extras, there is a theatrical trailer and a commentary track featuring Peckinpah scholars Paul Seydor Garner Simmons and David Weddle, with moderator Nick Redman. I haven't had the opportunity to listen to it, but I've heard it's worthwhile. If I've learned anything from this film, it's that if you involved in a manhunt in Mexico, it's advisable to bring lots of dry ice and a case of air fresheners.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on October 28, 2005
Sam Peckinpah's 1974 crime drama/modern-day western, BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA, is a bloodbath to be sure; some simply feel it is a bloody mess of a movie. However, the movie is notable for Warren Oates's strong performance as Bennie, an expatriate American hanging out in Mexico and for Peckinpah's signature slow-motion shoot-em-ups which occur with regularity throughout this film.
When wealthy rancher "El Jefe" (Mexican director Emilio Fernández) offers a million dollars for the head of lothario Alfredo Garcia in the wake of his daughter's disgrace, bounty hunters spread out across Mexico in search of the big prize. Among those searching for Garcia are the ambiguously gay hit men, Sappensly and Quill (Robert Webber and Gig Young), who soon encounter the loser Bennie in a hole-in-the-wall bar where he plays the piano and sings "Guantanamera" for loose change from tourists. When it becomes evident he may know the whereabouts of Garcia, they offer him a couple of grand for the head. As it turns out, Bennie's hooker/girlfriend Elita (Isela Vega) has been shacked up with Garcia of late.
As is the case with many Peckinpah characters, Bennie's moral code is non-conventional and seemingly loose, and he has no problem going back to Elita in order to get to Garcia. When it turns out that the title character is already dead, Bennie and Elita set off in search of his gravesite in search of the head. Then, things start to turn a bit bloody.
Peckinpah was never a director to shed a tear over a little collateral damage, and he certainly doesn't hold back in BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA. Once a dozen or so bodies have piled up on the wayside, Bennie begins to think that the titular head may be worth more than a few thousand dollars after all. Queue the slo-mo a few more times...
I don't think that it pays to think to much about the moral values of BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALREDO GARCIA. Suffice it to say that they are not the values we should seek to live by in our own lives. But, this movie is an enjoyable release with some memorable performances by Oates, Webber, Young, and others (look for Kris Kristofferson as a greasy biker). The film ends in classic Peckinpah style as Bennie, refusing to compromise his own moral code by taking his money quietly, makes his stand in a final blaze of gunfire and glory.
Jeremy W. Forstadt
16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on December 11, 1999
Peckinpah's genius shines through after 25 years, like Hitchcock in cowboy boots, even more than when I saw this film in 1974 -- despite the uniquely tawdry title. That's the first thing you notice about this film, isn't it? No mystery what's going on here.
If I ever make a film (or write a script), I'm going to make one with a very strong opening premise like this one... it's the kind of story that writes itself out effortlessly, one which bursts forth into a colorful mixture of American gangsters and Mexican feudalism. It's tackiness and Peckinpah's love of the Mexican landscape is part of it's great charm, but Jerry Fielding's superb score provides the deep emotional underpinnings to the ever-present romantic relationship (as in Straw Dogs, once again under deadly threat), as well as the macabre, delightful, and deeply disturbing plot twists.
The confrontation with the two bikers (Kris Kristofferson is one of them) is the only scene I would consider gratuitous and unnecessary.
Again and again, Peckinpah builds dreadful tension in such an awful and inexorable way, deeper and more disturbing and subtle than anyone else can do it, then releases it.
Warren Oates fits so perfectly into this morbid tapestry -- he portrays a character of delicious imperfections and personal turmoil in much the same way that Bogart once made the slovenly and unkempt so fascinating.
Robert Webber and Gig Young make two of the most depraved hit men I have EVER seen, and shine at their highest in the famous desert road shootout, which contains some of Peckinpah's finest slow motion intercutting editorial work.
For those who object to "gratuitous" film violence, I'm sure that Sam P. would've reminded you that sex and violence have been the very shaping forces of every species on earth. How can anyone conclude that such material is not suitable for drama?