Alamo Bay (1985)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Social Problem Film, Message Movie, Crime Drama  |   Release Date - Apr 3, 1985 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 105 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Michael Costello

One of the lesser efforts of the talented Louis Malle, this surprisingly simple-minded piece of agitprop is based on the racism that erupted in Galveston Bay, TX, when Vietnamese immigrants began taking a chunk out of the local shrimp-fishing business in the early '80s. In taking on racism, xenophobia, and economic nationalism -- ugly issues that Hollywood usually prefers to ignore -- the film shows admirable ambition. But while Malle has clearly striven for accuracy in re-creating the surface details of the time and place, Alice Arlen's script never makes the participants on either side remotely credible as human beings. The familiar dilemma of immigrant labor -- the desperate Vietnamese had simply outworked the native fisherman and prospered accordingly -- is completely lacking in the kind of nuance, complexity, and thoughtfulness with which John Sayles, Ken Loach, and others have treated such issues. Despite the best efforts of these talented actors, Ed Harris' embittered Vietnam vet and Amy Madigan as a woman sympathetic to the immigrants, have little to do but mouth platitudes, and Ho Nguyen, as the immigrant's spokesman, fares little better.