- Movie Rating -

Alamo Bay (1985)

| April 5, 1985

Louis Malle’s Alamo Bay wants to take a stand on a particular issue, makes an interesting and even challenging case, but then throws it away on a stupid action climax.  The issue is Vietnamese immigrants moving into a small Texas coastal town and trying to make a living despite objections from the local residents, many of whom are Vietnam veterans who don’t like this one bit.

Ed Harris plays Shang, a hard-drinking all-American type who is struggling to keep up with the payments on his boat, and worse, is dating Glory (Amy Madigan) who is in sympathy with the Vietnamese because her father (Donald Moffett) is the man who has been renting them their fishing boats.  This leads to tensions between Shang – who is armed – and the Vietnamese who fear where this will lead.

What is established up to this point is really good stuff and opens up a really challenging debate.  Are Shang and his friends right that this is their land, their waters, their fishing rights and only they should have access to it?  Or are the Vietnamese within their rights as well to fish the same waters and have the same opportunities despite the fact that they come from somewhere else?

That argument hangs heavy over everything, but then in the second half of the movie, things get complicated, not for the characters but for the movie.  Malle has Shang get involved with the local KKK who threaten violence to the point that the film’s third act is a shootout worthy of a Dirty Harry movie.

Why?  Why gum up the works?  Why turn a really good film about a real-life issue into a routine thriller involving the worst factions of American terrorist?  Why was that necessary?  What was Malle thinking?

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1985) View IMDB Filed in: Drama