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Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia (1974)
Genre: Crime Drama Thriller (USA, Mexico)
Starring: Warren Oates (Stripes; The Wild Bunch), Isela Vega
Directed By: Sam Peckinpah (Straw Dogs; Cross Of Iron)
Overview: A man sees an easy opportunity when offered money to bring back proof of a dead man.
Holy Warren Oats. This is not the kind of actor that I would say ever became world famous, but this has got to be his shining moment, if there ever was one. There are so many scenes that sit deep in the mire of disco-cheese, and without Oates' delivery it could have been terribly unconvincing. There are very few films when I've said, "Man that scene would be hard to act. Anything less and that could have been really bad." It takes a director with a big brass pair to put a man out in a film so ripe with kitsch and make it turn out so damn professional.
'Poverty is a place', this film taught me. Rusted out clunkers and the beat up, dented, broken-glassed cars chasing them really adds to the dingy joints and sweat-stained walls of unkempt pueblos. In fact the nice places often serve as a stark contrast to the man trying to get a taste of the good life. Occasionally there's stunts in slow motion, but the shooting style sits firmly in one of bleak realism. It's a dark place, and shot really well.
Listen. The church cuts off the feet, fingers, any other goddamn thing from the saints, don't they? Well, what the hell? Alfredo's our saint. He's the saint of our money, and I'm gonna borrow a piece of him.
Of course if that quote doesn't do it for you, you might be in the camp of exploitation corniness. Luckily for you, this script is full of those too. What I enjoyed most of all is how this story goes from frequent dark zingers and acid-tongued one liners to an almost crazed spoken-out-loud internal monologue that tells us so much - without being done as an 'aside' or being too expository. Witty, funny, kitschy and deep all at the same time.
When I first saw this listed in my 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die book, I predicted a story where Alfredo Garcia is chased after by bounty hunters, only to have to find his was back to the man who ordered the hit in the first place, very El Mariachi. I knew it wouldn't be original, but it would be kitschy super-disco-cool. When I found out this was about the best McGuffin ever conceived and a haunting journey into the soul, well holy jumpin' Jesus.
Some films crown a story in its symbols, but this one is its own symbol, making it the message. The theme is a dark one: do what you can even if it means hitting piles of trouble while doing it. The world isn't fair, look out for number one, and try to get... a head. Oh, I slay me. Above everything, you should appreciate the honest character development, regardless of the hard edge.
Overall Rating: 84% (Bring It Home)
I noticed occasional moments of clipping, which is a technical flaw in the sound recording that happens when your boom operator is high, drunk or inept. It could also be due to budgetary restrictions, and the oft used 'good enough' rule. "Who needs a second take? We're losing light, it's good enough." Either way it's a small price to pay to get such a good story brought to your living room.