After the deathwish of Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, it’s logical that the spirit of a dead man should dominate its successor. And for a director so preoccupied with male virility, it’s hardly surprising that Peckinpah has made a film primarily about impotence: Oates, a washed-up American bar-room pianist, hunts for the head of the stud Garcia and for his own machismo through a contemporary Mexico that reflects Peckinpah’s continuing love affair with that country. There’s no suspense; what happens is as predictable as it is inevitable. Peckinpah has structured a slow, almost meditative film out of carefully fashioned images that weave inextricable links between sex, death, music and violence. — CPe,Time Out Film Guide 13
The underworld demon king of masculine genre angst and the world’s first genuine action craftsman, Sam Peckinpah was also a quintessentially American artist, contemplating the dusty edges of frontier and social responsibility with a self-crucifying rumbum’s bloody gaze. Given his feral pessimism, rampant misogyny, and acceptance of bloodshed as a narrative imperative, Sam was a backyard liquor too strong for most people to drink, and his proper ascension to the auteurist pantheon’s high shelves may take a few more years. In the meantime, as a restored Major Dundee readies for re-release (at Film Forum April 8), the DVD of Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974) emerges.
Loathed upon its first appearance as a violent, hope-deprived neo-noir that even the Nixon era couldn’t handle, Garcia was reportedly the only Peckinpah film the man was happy to call his own. It remains today, in addition to a dirge in reverence to Warren Oates, a graceless, dire vision of cheap humanity, trailing Oates’s waste-case roadhouse piano player across a Mexican wilderness in search of reward, salvation, and a severed head in a sack. Desultorily shot, full of dead ends, and as lean as a Beckett monologue, the movie is also coarse and anarchic, a capitalist dream of free-for-all commerce gone scrap crazy. Was Peckinpah thinking about Hollywood? He was virtually through with movies, whether he knew it or not, making four more over the next 10 years, all of which were either wrecked by the producers or Peckinpah’s death-drinking, or both.
— Michael Atkinson, Village Voice
Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia is about as good as filmmaking gets. From it’s somewhat surreal and confusing opening to it’s blood-spattered finale, this is the reason why I watch movies. The movie follows Warren Oates out to collect the head of Alfredo, in order to get the bounty money, and escape his low-paid job in a bar for a better life. He takes his promiscuous girlfriend Isela Vega along for the ride.
This movie is very much about the journey of Oates, and his quest for a better life that ends up costing him everything. You sense that his relationship with Vega is built on a total understanding, that they share the same goals, and will follow each other to the ends of the Earth. Oates throws it all the way, and it’s his performance, and his struggle to deal with everything that’s thrown at him, that makes this movie so watchable. But Peckinpah shows an understanding of his script that allows him to direct the actors with ease, and his visual style is as good as it was in The Wild Bunch (1969).
This is the kind of movie that really appeals to hardcore movie fans. It has everything, and is completely uncompromising in it’s execution. Brilliant.