Movie Magazine International

The Newton Boys

USA - 1998

Movie Review By Andrea Chase

"The Newton Boys" is the true story of four brothers and their pals who in the early part of this century became the most successful bank robbers of all time. They were thieves, to be sure, but thieves with a code of honor. They didn't kill anybody, they didn't rob from women and/or children and they didn't rat out on each other. Unfortunately for them, chivalry didn't prevent their story from falling into the hands of Richard Linklater, the auteur of gen-x angst who was at a loss to make a good film out of their adventures.

The thinking here seems to have been, hey, we got four hunky guys, Matthew McConaughey, Ethan Hawke, Skeet Ulrich and Vincent D'Onofrio, why waste time on a real script? Let's dress them up in spiffy 1920s clothes, parade them around, and let their collective charisma do the work for us.

Here's what happened. McConaughey flounders trying to make up his character as he goes along. Hawke pins his hopes of character development on an oversized mustache. Ulrich spends his time on screen quietly trying NOT to look like Johnny Depp. And D'Onofrio throws in the towel altogether, content to be a hulking presence that perhaps no one will notice.

The flick shows the boys on a cross-country, bank-robbing joy-ride. This is their technique. Two of them loiter outside in the middle of the night with large guns as the others, inside, blow up the safes. No one ever seems to catch on to what the boys are up to and maybe, O, I don't know, stop them. Since this is a true story, one might assume that people back then were really stupid. A disturbing thought, but one that would explain Warren G. Harding and prohibition, but I digress.

Unlike most less than satisfying cinematic experiences, this one was not a total loss, I learned of a must-see documentary I'd never heard of before "The Newton Boys: Portrait of an Outlaw Gang." Under the closing credits, which, need I add, did not come soon enough, were clips from that documentary of the eldest Newton brother telling stories about his life and times. Dear readers, those five minutes were more interesting and entertaining than all of the 108 minutes that had preceded them.

© 1998 - Andrea Chase - Air Date: 4/25/98

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