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I lived in the Rockport-Fulton area, where parts of the movie was filmed, most of my life. I remember when the Vietnamese people began moving into the area, and the problems they had with some of the local citizens. This movie was pretty accurate about the feelings of some of the shrimpers, I am sorry to say. Ed Harris did a wonderful job of portraying the racist shrimper. He reminds me of a few people I knew in the area. Amy Madigan was also great portraying his former girlfriend. She had some tough decisions to make. This is a good movie with interesting characters and great acting. I think that the relationship between some of the Texas shrimpers and the Vietnamese shrimpers is portrayed pretty realistically.
I really enjoy this movie. I am normally a Horror buff, but there is a great ambiance of the Texas Gulf created. Not to mention wonderful character development. The story is about a young Vietnamese man (Ho Nguyen) who comes to Texas after the war for work. He ends up hitching a ride and begins work shrimping on the Gulf Coast of Texas. He is taken in by the Shrimp business owner's daughter (Amy Madigan). Everything is going well until the pressures of the immigrants over fishing drives Shang (Ed Harris) to lead the Ku Klux Klan to drive out the Vietnamese. The drama continues in a very REAL display. You will be able to find a VHS copy on Amazon or Ebay. This movie SHOULD be released on DVD.
This film, like its director, was years ahead of its time. Before Mississippi Burning, Cry Freedom, and Rosewood solidified the cliches of the racism genre, Louis Malle delivered this authentic, effortless look at Vietnamese fisherman working off the gulf coast of Texas. No house burnings and lynchings need apply. Malle and his writer Alice Arlen pay such close attention to detail that the film pants with life in the hot Texas sun. The actors scarcely seem to be acting at all. It takes skill and courage to film an incendiary subject like this won with a level head and a compassion for all involved. Despite its route cinematic ending, this film's catch is bountiful.
This story of attacks on Vietnamese immigrants on the Texas coast was
loosely based on real events from 1979-81. Shang Pierce (Ed Harris) is
a Vietnam vet who hates all non-white people and gets particularly
riled when Southeast Asian immigrants begin arriving in his town, and
especially when one of them develops a relationship with his
girlfriend, Glory (Amy Madigan). The situation gets tenser and tenser
as the movie progresses.
Maybe "Alamo Bay" is not the greatest movie ever, but it certainly shows a part of Texas history (and indeed, US history) that unfortunately seems forgotten. Ed Harris looks like a typical redneck, with a short, wispy beard. It is the sort of movie that you should check out if you get a chance.
The movie is stilted and slow in today's terms but does give a fairly accurate historical representation of the struggle of the Vietnamese shrimpers versus the KKK in the early eighties. Morris Dees and the newly formed Southern Poverty Law Center came to Kemah and Seabrook to make sure the Klan did not become the ruling class in the Texas Bay Area. The actual story can be found at www.tolerance.org or the southern poverty law center site. Louis Malle (yes he was French) was a great director who was married to actress Candice Bergen. He died of cancer in the late nineties. The movie does show a fledgling actor, Ed Harris, who has gone on to make many successful movies. The script was written by the writer of "Silkwood" which was another docudrama. It is worth watching for the history alone. Shows the pain felt by the locals and the immigrants.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In Alamo Bay on the Texas coast, the local white fishing community
feels inundated by Vietnamese refugees and they dislike the "gooks."
There seems no end to the irritation they cause. First, they're
Catholics instead of proper Christians. Second, they look funny --
except the cute little gals jest awigglin' down the street after
school. Third, they speak some barbaric tongue. Fourth, they live
according to standards known only in undeveloped, overcrowded
countries. (This isn't too well illustrated in the film, but in
actuality it probably was true; I say that, having lived with Chinese
students in New York and Korean fishermen in Pago Pago.) Fifth, where
was I? Sixth, the Vietnamese don't know the formal norms, so they
pollute the bay and catch fish, shrimp, and crabs before sunrise and
after sundown, which is against the law, and they encroach on
traditional family fishing grounds. Seventh, they work like hell, and
for low wages.
All this vexation adds up and before you know it the rednecks in their caterpillar caps are roughing up some of the small and slender gooks. They're accused of stealing, excluded from other community facilities, chased away from the fishing grounds, and are finally run out of town by a stereotypical Ku Klux Klan. Everybody except the two gooks who operate the fishing boat belonging to Amy Madigan.
Madigan's character is a spunky young lady. She's nobody's idea of a bleeding heart but she doesn't displace her anger onto the industrious gooks. (Anger is displaced when it's shifted to an easier target; a man gets chewed out by his boss, comes home and kicks the dog.) And there's a lot of anger in the white community. Shrimping isn't what it used to be. Ed Harris, Shank, has just lost his boat because the bank won't extend his loan. Big Government is sticking its nose into everybody's business. You have to have registration numbers on your boats and all that. The white folks have to comply with these impositions but the gooks persist in ignoring them.
In the end there is a shoot out. The shoot out isn't handled with the kind of action and drama we're used to. The movie was directed by Louis Malle, a Frenchman. The pistol shots don't sound like 105 mm. howitzers going off. Nobody uses an ugly gun that sprays lead all over the place like a fire hose gone berserk. The Molotov cocktail doesn't explode in a fireball; it just breaks and spills some burning gasoline over the deck -- promptly extinguished by the timely arrival of the fire department. The gook who is beaten half to death has a face that remains recognizably human, though there's a bit of blood. When a heavy is shot, there is no squibb; he simply clutches his side and rolls over, as he would in a drama from the 1940s.
Interesting questions are raised by the tale, which roughly reflects historical conditions around Corpus Christi. The racial prejudice and the displacement of anger aside -- "aside" because the motives are so commonly encountered -- what, exactly, do you do with a "rate buster"? Psychologists have shown that a consistent tendency exists in workers to establish certain norms of production. That is, everybody on the team works at about the same rate; not too slow, not too fast. That way everyone is comfortable and satisfied with the effort he's putting into the task. But what happens when somebody breaks this unwritten rule? Cool Hand Luke did it while his chain gang was shoveling sand over a freshly tarred roadway and it caused The Man With No Eyes to insert the bolt into his rifle. Here, the gooks run roughshod over the unwritten rules. Nobody likes a rate buster. But the question of what to do about them is neatly sidestepped when the Vietnamese are run out of town and the white folks can get back to a more reasonable level of exertion. Still, it remains a question of interest, maybe more than race and displaced anger, which can be overcome by moral evolution. Rate busters, regardless of ethnicity, rearrange the whole task structure. It threatens to shift the emphasis from cooperation to competition.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Movie takes place in Texas where many Asian immigrants showed up in the
late seventies and these "good ole' boys" make a living catching fish
and the Vietnamese are doing the same kind of work and taking their
business. One man and his daughter hire many of the immigrants to help
them and the rednecks take revenge and the town officials turn there
back.. it's just racism that is everywhere and still very apparent all
over the country.
The thing is with me, is that I have seen so many films like this and it offered nothing new to me. The rednecks are mean people who get what they deserve and it was good they did in this film, but its sad knowing there's a lot of that racist garbage going on and few times do the victims get such sweet revenge.
Production values are not great here, direction was simple, music was by Ry Cooder and very boring, even excruciating at times, his scores bend hard on that cliché, southern movie music score sound. Ed Harris did a damn good job as the redneck jerk on this film and many of the other actors did well too. I just couldn't suggest this film to anyone, it offered nothing new, and there is no wonder why it is a forgotten film. 3/10 stars
Blidness cannot exist when we acknowledge the existence of KKK, and this film is showing exactly this problem. I do not know whether this problem of KKK is solved yet, but I remember well the problems created by this racial organization during 60-70s, particularly against black people. In this film the problem is with highly efficient and hard-working fishermen from Vietnam, who came to US during the war in their country. Part of the local fishermen were simply against them and tried to prevent fishing by the Vietnamese, at the end this came to a confrontation between both parts. In fact the film does not give any sustainable solution at its end, the leader of the white opposing the Vietnamese (Ed Harris) is killed by his former girl friend (Amy Madigan). The French director Louis Malle goes straight away into the problem and confrontation without much preface in the plot of the film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I've always loved the movies and low budget's are my favorite. As the thirty-three yr old niece of the Shrimper, whose murder, this film is looooosely based on I found watching it brought back extremely painful and frightful memories. Were this movie not based on my Uncle's cruel and thoughtless murder, I would most likely not give it a second thought. Being that he was "written" and "portrayed" as a violent, dim witted, red neck and bitter Vietnam soldier turned shrimper is a slap in the face to his entire family that had to deal with the untimely murder of a Son, Father, Brother, Uncle and friend, and the outrageous miscarriage of justice that followed in it's wake. Indeed there is a True story out there. Unfortunately, in our rush to sympathize with the poor newcomers to our shores, it has never been "Truly" told. My Uncle was indeed a Vet, but did not serve in Vietnam, he also was a Charter Fishing Captain, he was in a long marriage to a loving and supporting wife, he was father of three children and yes a crabber. After approaching the law on several occasions for help after harassment by Vietnamese Refugees, and not getting any help, he was shot in the chest and again in the back as he fled his armed murderers. He was UnArmed. In a Mock Murder Trial, the Van Nguyen brothers, the murderers, were acquitted on self-defense. Even though they openly admitted leaving the scene of the eventual crime to go home and get their rifles to Kill my uncle. How convenient for President Carter. Maille, Arlsen as well as Marie Shriver (liberal democrat who contributed to the making of this film) should all be shamed and ashamed. An American was murdered in his own town by Wards of the Federal Gov't! I do not recommend this film for viewing or for DVD. Enough blood money has been made off my Uncle's innocence.
A French director telling the USA how screwed up their country is. It's always directors from outside who see more of the human damage on the USA citizens, like Wender's did in PARIS,TEXAS. But this film is uninvolving and not enough punch. Maybe I've been watching too many Oliver Stone movies. Only the brilliant acting saves it.
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