Taglines: Alamo Bay. A place where everyone risked everything for a piece of the American Dream.
A despondent Vietnam veteran in danger of losing his livelihood is pushed to the edge when he sees Vietnamese immigrants moving into the fishing industry in a Texas bay town.
Alamo Bay is a 1985 drama film about a Vietnam veteran who clashes with Vietnamese immigrants who move to his fictitious Texas bay hometown. The film was directed by Louis Malle, and stars Amy Madigan and Ed Harris. Future Texas A&M and Dallas Cowboys linebacker Dat Nguyen, who was 9 at the time has a small role as a Little League ballplayer. The title soundtrack “Theme from Alamo Bay” by the artist Ry Cooder can be found on Music by Ry Cooder, a compilation album of Cooder’s soundtracks from movies released between 1980 and 1993.
About the Alamo Bay
Alamo Bay is a well-intentioned melodrama. It wouldn’t have been made otherwise. Mr. Malle and Mrs. Arlen can be certified as concerned citizens. It’s also apparent that they appreciate the terrible bind in which both the native Texans and the Vietnamese find themselves. Where they fail is in making something moving and comprehensible of the contradictory impulses within their fictional characters. They try, from time to time, but the essential nastiness of the situation overwhelms them.
At the heart of the film are three potentially interesting people. Glory (Amy Madigan) is a pretty, tough, headstrong young woman who has returned to the small fishing town of Port Alamo to help her ailing father in his shrimp-shipping business.
Shang (Ed Harris), who used to ”spark” Glory when they were in high school but is now married to a shrew who lives in hair curlers, is a Vietnam vet having trouble meeting the bank loan on his boat. Shang has the manners and mentality of a redneck bigot, but he also has a lot of primitive charm. One is meant to believe, I think, that under any other circumstances he’d be a fairly decent guy, but even before the confrontation with the Vietnamese, he’s such a mean-spirited boor it’s difficult to see how any woman not bent on self-destruction could stick with him.
Dinh (Ho Nguyen) is a bright, shining-faced, optimistic young Vietnamese refugee, newly arrived in Port Alamo, who goes to work for Glory and, in almost no time, is in a position to purchase his own boat. Dinh is a very rare creature, too good, you might say, to be true or, more important, to be effectively dramatic.
He accepts the racial slurs of the Anglo fishermen without expression. His sunny nature eventually wins over the skeptical Glory, who stands by him when the white fishermen declare their war on the ”gooks,” as he stood by her when the Anglos threatened to close down her business because she dealt with the Vietnamese.
At the same time, Glory’s private life has become a mess. She has resumed her affair with Shang, only to have him leave her when she cannot produce the money to save his boat from foreclosure. Miss Madigan and Mr. Harris (who are married in real life) are good performers, but their characters here are not as complex as they are.
There’s only one moment in the entire film when it seems as if ”Alamo Bay” is taking on a life of its own, when we understand that behavior might be growing out of character and not simply imposed on character. This is a sexy, mostly wordless love scene, set in a Port Alamo barroom, when Glory and Shang are dancing together and, what with the music and the body heat, realize simultaneously that each is ready to chuck everything to be able to make love to the other.
Alamo Bay (1985)
Directed by: Louis Malle
Starring: Amy Madigan, Ed Harris, Ho Nguyen, Donald Moffat, Truyen V. Tran, Rudy Young, Cynthia Carle, Martin LaSalle, Lucky Mosley
Screenplay by: Alice Arlen
Production Design by: Trevor Williams
Cinematography by: Curtis Clark
Film Editing by: James Bruce
Costume Design by: Deirdre N. Williams
Set Decoration by: Christian Kelly
Art Direction by: Rhiley Fuller
Music by: Ry Cooder
Distributed by: TriStar Pictures
Release Date: April 3, 1985