There was perhaps no finer director at conveying suspense or agony through juxtaposition… than Sam Peckinpah. For his revenge yarn Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, he builds strong foundations of humanity, interlaced with love and the desire to protect what’s sacred. It could be his most courageous film.
Warren Oates provides concrete proof that his leading man status was no joke. He plays a weary gringo, out to gain some extra money despite the moral implications. Because action rarely figures during the first hour, we spend time with Bennie (Oates) as he gets cosy with girlfriend Elita (Isela Vega).
Complementing the revenge motif, other topics sing ambiguity. For example, a controversial sequence involving the biker (played by Kris Kristofferson) reveals haziness on Elita’s part. With clothes ripped, she doesn’t retreat from her attacker but follows him. They even share a kiss. Whether she expected to be rescued by Bennie remains unclear though the aftermath leaves her visibly shaken. It’s a stain that could undermine a lesser director’s strategy. However for Peckinpah the reverse seems true. Under pressure, people behave in ways contrary to morality or decency.
A whirlwind that breaks as many rules as it does fingers, Peckinpah’s film confronts us with a loveable scumbag. By closing time, such hardships Bennie has endured make the cash seem as empty and weightless as monopoly currency. Because this journey reveals obsession and madness minus the guarantee of a freeze frame smile, rage becomes a default emotional compromise.
A circumstance that’s alive to every human breath, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia shatters the vault between Hollywood and greatness. For me, it’s one of Peckinpah’s very best pictures.
(Released by United Artists and rated "R" by MPAA.)