Monday, May 14, 2007

Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974)

Why, o why am I so consistently underwhelmed by so many films?

Up next in the running order for me to be underwhelmed by, was Sam Peckinpah's cult classic Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia.

The film concerns a wealthy Mexican man named El Jefe (Emilio Fernandez) that puts a million-dollar bounty on the head of Alfredo Garcia, who knocked up Jefe's daughter. The thing is, Garcia is already long-since dead and buried. Bar pianist Bennie (Warren Oates) is tasked by two of Jefe's goons (Robert Webber and, in a random cameo, Gig Young) to go to the little Mexican town where Garcia is six feet below most other residents, and bring back ol' Alfredo's head. Along the way on the journey, he meets and falls in love with Elita (Isela Vega), a local prostitute. But there are many other people looking for the cranial bounty as well.

There was an odd, pervasive joylessness with this film, and although I know some of this was intentional (Bennie's not exactly content or happy with life), it's a feeling of dread that seems to kill much momentum that the film has (this is a film that, with a slightly-lighter touch, would be something someone would describe as "whacked", but it's too literal and downbeat to engender such an enjoyable descriptor). I thought much of the middle section (especially pretty much everything related to Elita) dragged (at best), and was completely superfluous at worst (I'm sure the scene with Kris Kristofferson was some all-important turning point where Oates finally descends into the kind of violence he once loathed and went off into another plane, but it just seemed completely unnecessary for a movie that could have trimmed 20 minutes and been substantially better.)

With that said, I did think there was some to like. I thought the last 30 minutes picked up considerably and came to a suitably bullet-ridden finale that saved much of what had came before it. Warren Oates, despite being too downbeat, plays a normal guy that is forced to go off the deep end, and has to question what is most important to him in life. Isela Vega is decent but unnecessary (although the fact that she's beautiful and constantly topless makes it a bit easier to sit through). No one else really sticks through, this is pretty much purely Oates's film.

You know, the more I talk and muse about it, the more I'm liking it. I guess I just didn't go through my normal contemplative procedure before writing this review.

Ask me again in a week. Perhaps it'll make my top 250.

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