The Newton Boys

As much a paean to roughhousing boys as to the myth of the West, this wholesome, fact-based story of wholesome bank-robbing and gentleman gangsters really wants to be liked. The spawn of a long line of dirt farmers and cotton-pickers, unjustly incarcerated Willis Newton (Matthew McConaughey) gets sprung from the pen and decides to take up bank-robbing....read more

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Reviewed by Sandra Contreras
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As much a paean to roughhousing boys as to the myth of the West, this wholesome, fact-based story of wholesome bank-robbing and gentleman gangsters really wants to be liked. The spawn of a long line of dirt farmers

and cotton-pickers, unjustly incarcerated Willis Newton (Matthew McConaughey) gets sprung from the pen and decides to take up bank-robbing. His rationale: Bankers have been robbing poor people for ages, and as long as no one gets hurt -- especially in a new age of banks with insurance -- it makes

perfectly good sense for the likes of the Newtons to help themselves to the cash. Freshly minted star McConaughey tries gamely to invigorate the stock scenes of the ebullient and ambitious Willis gathering his handsome brothers into the criminal fold, romancing most beautiful girl Louise

(Julianna Margulies) and taking charge of the gang's 80-some bank jobs. Each fabulous Newton boy has a quirk, the better to distinguish them at 100 paces: Jess (Ethan Hawke) is the reckless drunk, Dock (Vincent D'Onofrio) the lumbering dimwit and Joe (Skeet Ulrich) is the sensitive moralist with

serious misgivings about their line of work. The real surprise in the ensemble is country singer Dwight Yoakam's nuanced performance as Brentwood Glasscock, the Newtons' nitro man. Inoffensive and designed to cater to some sort of middle-of-the-road constituency (it's not entirely clear who wants

period gangster Westerns to be jolly instead of dark), this film is a huge leap forward for director and cowriter Richard Linklater, and he tackles the genre conventions and period set pieces with eminent grace. He's also clearly thrown his heart and soul into the film, and as it shuffles toward

its endearing coda, you have to agree that real life really is stranger than fiction.

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  • Released: 1998
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Review: As much a paean to roughhousing boys as to the myth of the West, this wholesome, fact-based story of wholesome bank-robbing and gentleman gangsters really wants to be liked. The spawn of a long line of dirt farmers and cotton-pickers, unjustly incarcerate… (more)

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