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Film / Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia

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"There ain't nothing sacred about a hole in the ground or the man that's in it. Or you. Or me."

A New Old West film from Sam Peckinpah, released in 1974. At the time, it was considered bleak and violent even by Peckinpah standards, it has since had a resurgence of popular and critical opinion. Peckinpah considered it his best and most personal film.

It begins with a feared Mexican landowner, known only as 'El Jefe' ('The Boss') brutally interrogating his pregnant teenage daughter over the identity of the father of the baby she's carrying. Upon learning that it was a trusted underling, El Jefe orders his henchmen to "Bring me the head of Alfredo Garcia". This information eventually gets back to Bennie (Warren Oates), an American ex-pat who ekes out a living as the piano player in a dive bar, who in turn learns from his prostitute girlfriend Elita (Isela Vega) that Garcia is already dead, having been killed in a drunk driving accident some weeks previously. Bennie decides that he can earn some easy money by digging up Garcia's corpse, removing the head and taking it to El Jefe for the bounty, and drags Elita along to help him.

Things go downhill from there.

This film provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: El Jefe's first scene has him breaking his pregnant daughter's arm to find out who impregnated her. Yeah.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Sappensly and Quill are glued to each other at all times and disdain the advances of prostitutes. When one of them dies, the other becomes extremely emotional and completely loses it.
  • Anti-Hero: Bennie is Unscrupulous or Nominal. He wants money and to regain a lifestyle he lost by moving to Mexico, everything else can go to hell.
  • Attempted Rape: Two bikers try to rape Elita. She ultimately "accepts" one of them (played by Kris Kristofferson), but it doesn't happen as Bennie shoots him.
  • Author Avatar: Bennie. Warren Oates admits his performance is a Sam Peckinpah impersonation. The sunglasses Bennie wears were borrowed off Peckinpah.
  • Badass Biker: A strange subversion. The rough bikers intend to rape the hero's girl, but Kris Kristofferson gets bashful, and she actually tries to comfort him!
  • Bilingual Bonus: Lots of Spanish dialogue.
  • Black Humor: Stuff like talking to a head on the passenger seat can do that.
  • Blast Out: The climax, after Jefe tells Bennie to Get Out! with no money, and Bennie decides to kill the guy.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: The film cuts to credits as Bennie is given a fusillade by Jefe's goons.
  • The Casanova: According to the posthumous reports we receive Alfredo Garcia was apparently this in life, with at least two examples to back it up; as well as knocking up the Big Bad Boss's daughter, he's also apparently gotten with Bennie's girlfriend a few times. She even seems to be more fond of him than she is of Bennie himself.
  • Cool Car: Bennie's red convertible is a 1962 Chevy Impala.
  • Cool Shades: Bennie wears some. Necessary in the bleak Mexican desert.
  • Crapsack World: No heroes or villains here, gentlemen. Just opportunists and monsters.
  • Darker and Edgier: Bleaker, more hopeless, violent, cynical and nihilistic than any other film in Peckinpah's filmography... which is saying something!
  • Decapitation Presentation: Bennie gets the head of Garcia, and ends up fighting criminals and mercenaries for the chance to be the one to present it to El Jefe.
  • Demanding Their Head: The trope Invoked in the film's title. A powerful Mexican crime lord, El Jefe, offers a $1 million bounty to whomever brings him the head of Alfredo Garcia.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Bennie reaches thus upon the death of Elita. Before then, he's clearly going a bit mad for much of the movie, but that causes him to just completely lose touch with reality.
  • Downer Ending: Everyone dies.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The Big Bad wants the head of Alfredo Garcia, and the plot revolves around the efforts of the characters to find and bring it to him.
  • Fanservice: An early scene has a completely naked Isela Vega for no particular reason.
  • Keep the Reward: A Take This Job and Shove It version. After going through a hefty amount of trouble to get the damn head and then get it to El Jefe (which included seeing his girlfriend, Elita, die), risking death at every turn, for the reward money, Bennie is enraged at El Jefe's apathy at the deaths of sixteen people - particularly Elita's. El Jefe tells Bennie to take the reward and leave, and to toss Garcia's head in the garbage on the way out (and pretty much going short of "and don't let the door hit you in the ass"). Bennie has a murderous Freak Out as a result, and attacks El Jefe and his bodyguards. Teresa, El Jefe's daughter, walks in mid-shootout carrying Garcia's newborn son - after the bodyguards are dead but with El Jefe still alive - which makes Benny pause, but when she tells him to avenge Garcia by killing her father, he finishes the job. He tells Teresa, "You take care of the boy. And I'll take care of the father." ...and drives off to re-bury Garcia's head... and is blown away by El Jefe's surviving men.
  • New Old West: Sam Peckinpah returns to the setting of his Western, but this time has the story in the contemporary days.
  • Product Delivery Ordeal: After a scornful Mexican crime lord known only as "El Jefe" offers a $1 million bounty to whomever brings him Alfredo Garcia's head, Bennie, a barroom pianist, ends up on a quest to collect the bounty. Finding Garcia proves easy enough, after Bennie learns that he died in a drunk driving accident a week prior. Bennie plans to dig up Garcia's grave, decapitate the corpse, and collect the money on it. However, after finding the grave, things get much more complicated. Others with similar motivations attack Benny, kill his girlfriend, claim the head for themselves, and prompt Bennie to track them down and retrieve it again. After that, he's ambushed by members of the Garcia family who also reclaim the head. The hitmen who initially told Bennie about the bounty show up and gun down most of the Garcia family before they, too, try to kill Bennie. Another firefight breaks out when Bennie returns with the head to one of El Jefe's business associates. Then, at last, Bennie delivers the head to El Jefe's hacienda. Bennie's given a briefcase containing the million dollars before he relates how many people died for Garcia's head, including his girlfriend. El Jefe tells Bennie to take his money and throw the head to the pigs on the way out. Infuriated that the object responsible for his girlfriend's death and all this madness is viewed as nothing more than garbage, Bennie guns down all of El Jefe's bodyguards before offing the boss, as well. Then, as Bennie finally drives away from the scene, El Jefe's remaining men shoot him to bits with machine guns.
  • Professional Killers: Who look and act more like lawyers than anything else.
  • A Real Man Is a Killer: Bennie has difficulty killing though and must psych himself up for it.
  • Sanity Slippage: Bennie loses his sanity over the course of the film. He ends up having conversations with Alfredo who, let us remind you, is a rotting head in a sack at this point.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Bennie arrives with Garcia's head to El Jefe's house after dodging killers and going through some Sanity Slippage from the tension. El Jefe tells Bennie to dump Garcia's head in the trash on the way out. Bennie is infuriated by how the object responsible for Elita's death is treated as garbage, totally snaps and kills El Jefe... and then gets gunned down on the way out.
  • Take That!: When Bennie is first seen playing the piano in the Mexico City bar, a fake one-dollar bill on the brick wall directly behind him has a caricature of Richard Nixon. Sam Peckinpah inserted it there to show his contempt for Nixon, whose presidency was falling apart.
  • Trailers Always Lie: Averted. The trailer is exceptionally blunt about how bleak and bloody the film is.
    Trailer Announcer: This man will become an animal. This woman's dreams of love will be destroyed. Innocent people will suffer. Holy ground will be desecrated. Twenty five people will die.
  • Title Drop: Said right as El Jefe learns of Alfredo Garcia's name.