American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
"Alamo Bay" tells one of those complicated, tragic American stories that you read about in the newspaper and remember months later, wondering whatever happened to those people and their crisis. In this case, the stories were about a blood feud on the Texas Gulf between the veteran local shrimp fisherman and new arrivals from Vietnam who were, the locals said, invading their traditional grounds and, spoiling the fishing.
A lot of values are at conflict here, including the weight of tradition behind the Texans and the right of the Vietnamese to earn a living. The situation is even more complicated because many of the fishermen fought in Vietnam and are not, at this later date, much impressed by the fact that the newly arrived Vietnamese were on our side.
"Alamo Bay" tells the story through the eyes of one of the local fishermen, played by Ed Harris as an angry, hard-drinking man who stubbornly hangs onto his own boat but is afraid he can't meet the payments. Harris has an unhappy homelife, and a love affair on the side with a local woman (Amy Madigan), whose father (Donald Moffat) is the man who rents the boats to the Vietnamese. Harris sees the presence of the new boats as a personal affront, and begins to take a rifle along on his daily trips. The Vietnamese, meanwhile, begin to wonder if they will need to use force to protect themselves.
This is an unhappy situation, and "Alamo Bay" is at its best when it simply dwells on the unhappiness. The emotional heart of the movie is in the affair between Harris and Madigan, who play imperfect people in a flawed world, and whose romance resembles the hard lives described in the country songs they dance to - clinging together as if they could transcend their lives by the sheer power of Saturday night lust.