Thing is, the movie is a masterpiece--raw, shocking, beautiful, and brave--in which Peckinpah confronts his enemies and his own demons. Warren Oates plays a gringo piano-player stuck in Mexico who hears that some powerful men are willing to pay a bounty on a guy he knows. They don't know the guy is already dead, killed in a car accident. It'll be easy to exhume the trophy and collect the money--except that it will cost our seedy hero everything he has and ever wanted.
John Huston's Treasure of the Sierra Madre had always been a key legend for Peckinpah; this film is a subterranean re-imagining of it, with Oates as both the son of Fred C. Dobbs and the carnival-mirror reflection of Peckinpah himself. And Isela Vega's performance as the sainted whore Elita--bruised and worldly one minute, radiant and clear-skinned as a child the next--is an act of grace. --Richard T. Jameson
Warren Oates, in a role that is part Humphrey Bogart (TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE, which ALFREDO GARCIA resembles somewhat) and part Peckinpah (no surprise there), is excellent as the American expatriot barfly who is hired on by two hitmen (Robert Webber, Gig Young) to retrieve the head of a two-timing Mexican gigolo named Alfredo Garcia--and JUST the head. They offer him a $10,000 reward and Oates goes off on his mad quest with his girlfriend (Isela Vega) who once romanced with Garcia.
Getting Garcia's top ought to be a piece of cake, because he's dead. It is anything BUT that. And when he is bonged over the head with a shovel in a Mexican graveyard and Vega is killed, the film takes an ever-accelerating ride towards a bullet-riddled finale. As Oates finds out, so many people want the head of Alfredo Garcia because the millionaire (Emilio Fernandez) who screamed for the man's head was offering a million dollars (!).
This weird movie has to be seen to be believed. Peckinpah's trademark slow-mo violence is here, though not in the apocalyptic way it was in THE WILD BUNCH. The basic themes of redemption, killing, and Oates' macabre quest (the head is kept in a sack, with the flies buzzing all around it) are incredible. ALFREDO GARCIA is furthermore blessed with a fine score by Jerry Fielding that is part Mexican and also partially like his score for Peckinpah's 1971 horror film STRAW DOGS.
To be sure, even more than a quarter century later, ALFREDO GARCIA is not everyone's cup of tea. But for Peckinpah lovers, it is a must-have.