Alamo Bay is a failed piece of social consciousness. The peripatetic Louis Malle hasn’t managed to shed any meaningful light on his current subject, that of the conflict between refugee Vietnamese and local fisherfolk around Galveston Bay, Texas, circa 1979 81.
Malle dared to place an exceedingly unsympathetic character at the center of his drama. Here it is Ed Harris, a bruising, philandering, unreflective lout who resents the intrusion of Vietnamese into his community and finally resorts to the easiest method of dealing with them, i.e. brutal, illegal violence.
Scene-setting is devoted to the native whites and newcomer Asians trying to fish the same waters, with the whites becoming increasingly irritated as the Vietnamese, in their view, horn in on their traditional territory, and work for lower wages to boot.
Mixed in with this is a re-ignition of a romance between Harris and Amy Madigan, latter being the daughter of controversial fish factory operator Donald Moffat and now at odds politically with her former boy friend.
On the other side of the fence is new arrival Ho Nguyen, who at first wears a permanent, subservient smile in hopes of ingratiating himself, but later refuses to be intimidated along with the rest of his people.