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USA 1974
Directed by
Sam Peckinpah
112 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia

Sam Peckinpah's last substantial film hybridizes1970s road movie romanticism with pulp fiction and classic Western outsider anti-hero heroics in this story of Bennie (Warren Oates), a two-bit gringo piano-player down Mexico way who takes on the task which gives the film its name. 

Although in its latter stages it approaches self-parody as it spirals into ever more outlandish gun-play for the most part and for its time at least, it offered an exciting exercise in screen violence that recalls Jodorowsky’s El Topo (1971) for its excessiveness. Unfortunately this also includes violence against women as a young girl has her arm broken by her father (Emilio Fernández who had played Mapache in The Wild Bunch, 1969), a woman gets viciously elbowed by a mobster (Robert Webber) and there is an attempted rape (with Kris Kristofferson as the rapist) which is doubly questionable as Peckinpah seems to suggest that the woman, Elita (Isela Vega) is up for it. On the other hand he appears to be having a joke at the expense of a pair of Webber and Gig Young's gay mobsters

The film starts cleverly by misleading us into believing that we are about to see a Western before shifting gear and bringing us into the modern day, a narrative recontextualisation that works well to make the reality of Bennie’s warped odyssey all the more gruesome. Peckinpah pours on the sensationalism, notably with the character of Elita, Garcia's former lover and now Bennie’s squeeze, a nubile wench who spends a goodly amount of screen-time topless and,on the grotesque side, in the form of Alfredo's fly-covered head which Bennie transports in his car in a hessian bag and chats to on his way to collect the ransom money.

Although Vega is far from being a good actress, a gravel-voiced Oates is excellent as a paradigmatic Peckinpah character, the none-too-bright but implacable opportunist trying to beat the Hand of Fate as Bennie battles The Mob, vengeful villagers and sombrero-wearing banditti for that break in life which he’s never had.

Post-adolescents will enjoy the film, more mature audiences may tire of its relentlessness phallocentricism, epitomised by the film's final shot with a gun barrel pointed directly to us, .

DVD Extras: Audio Commentary with Peckinpah scholars Paul Seydor, Garner Simmpns and David Weddle with moderator Nick Redman; Original theatrical trailer. 

Available from: Shock Entertainment




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