The Newton Boys - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Newton Boys Reviews

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July 14, 2016
Slim and underwhelming, especially for a movie about a notorious gang of train and bank robbers.
Super Reviewer
March 17, 2016
Early in his career, director Richard Linklater crafted this true story about brothers who rob banks and trains back in the 1920's. For Richard Linklater, who is best known for his slow character dramas, this felt like one of his weaker efforts to say the least. Starring Matthew McConaughey, Ethan Hawke, and Vincent D'Onofrio as the most notable leads, this film follows these brothers from town to town as they try to stay hidden while increasing their loot. With love, lust, and bad decisions, this film has many elements that would make for a great film. Is this a great film? Sadly no, but it does have promise, and that is what I am going to talk about here.

"The Newton Boys" helms a very lengthy script, not that it is too long, but the slow pace makes the film feel much longer than it's two hour run time. That being said, films can still be great when that happens, they just have to have exciting sequences and relatable characters to back it up. For the most part, it does have that, due to it's likeable cast and intriguing story. These men never kill and that is what humanizes this story. I loved watching portions of this film, mainly due to the banter written by Linklater, but in the end, it is a very forgettable picture that seems too caught up in it's characters, rather than the way it affects the towns they harm. In the end, I enjoyed watching this film for what it was, but I think a property like this could have been better in different hands.
January 16, 2016
I never watched this film back in the day, but I was a huge fan of writer/director Richard Linklater and I'm also a sucker for dustbowl stories like this, so I'm surprised I never checked this film out. Linklater tells the true story of the outlaw Newton Boys who were the most successful American train and bank robbers of all time, who (SPOILER ALERT) all lived to a ripe old age, living to tell the tale. Linklater casts a charming group of actors to plays the gang, Matthew McConaughey, Ethan Hawke, Skeet UlrichVincent D'Onofrio, Julianna Margulies and Dwight Yoakam. He also has Chloe Webb and veteran western actors Bo Hopkins and Luke Askew as well. For whatever reason, I always imagined this film as a low budget independent affair, but it really is a full blown period piece in all it's glory. And I'm not sure what it is about these "Grape of Wrath" dust bowl tales that attract me, but this one totally fits into what I like and had my number. Strong performances, a smart script that balances suspense, humor and heists, and balance direction from Linklater, all add up to a solid film. I know many critics didn't care for this film, but it worked for me and my fondness for the setting may have overcome the films shortcoming around plot and various contrivances.
January 10, 2016
It's not one of my favorite Linklater films, but certainly not one of his worst films either. The Newton Boys is a well-acted caper film with strong production values and an intriguing story. McConaughey is irresistibly charming and charismatic.
½ May 15, 2015
Nice looking film that's way too tame for this director and these actors.
April 29, 2015
Great cast and story but it does tend to drag a bit. It also lacks the emotional depth needed for a film centered on characters of this nature who you would need a connection with so by the end you are rooting for them or hoping they get caught. It is an ok film to casually watch if there's nothing else. With the talent involved, it's not their worst but far from their best. C+
½ January 31, 2015
The four Newton brothers comes from a poor farmer family in Uvalde/Texas in the 1920s. The oldest of them, Willis (Matthew McConaughey), has just gotten out of prison after having done a stint due to a miscarriage of justice and comes to the fact that there's no future in the fields and offers his brothers, Joe (Skeet Ulrich) and Jess (Ethan Hawke) to become a bank robbers together with him. Willis dream is to make as much money he can and then become an oilman with his own oil well. Soon enough the brothers are joined by the fourth brother Dock (Vincent D'Onofrio) whom just escaped prison. Willis has already befriended a criminal named Brentwood Glasscock (Dwight Yoakam), a man with a lot of knowledge of nitroglycerin... The Newton Gang is very prolific and make headlines wherever they go. However, the law is on their tail and the banks have suddenly invested in enhanced safes. It´s up to Willis and his gang to figure out how they can execute the big final robbery that can settle them for life...

Richard Linklater stepped out of his indieshoes and tried a different genre with "The Newton Boys" (based on the true story of the Newton Gang) and the result is varied in my eyes. The acting is in general ok and the performances as well, but at the same time all the main characters are not defined properly in my opinion. I reckon my biggest issue with "The Newton Boys" is the comedy angle that is just annoying and it simply doesn´t work in the mix with the drama. It becomes to much of a "slip on a banana peel" vibe & feel and I just can´t shake the fact that this angle is just wrong or wrongly done. I reckon Linklater was inspired by "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and "The Sting", but is nowhere near the mentioned films as "The Newton Boys" simply don´t have the weight in the script, direction or actors. I do love a period piece film and this is set in one of the nicer periods and everything that comes along with it. Yes, the production is well made, and the cinematography is quite nice, but that is not enough. "The Newton Boys" is just neither or nor and it fades the minute it´s over.
½ June 20, 2014
A lot of fun, well made, well acted. I had no issues with feeling it drag or anything. It held my interest all the way through. It might've worked better, at least had more grit, as an R-rated affair with more action, but then again, this is more of a gentlemen's bank robbery story. Good ol' boys who aren't out to hurt anyone and just want a little spending cash. In that regard, keeping things toned down wasn't such a bad idea.
Cameron W. Johnson
Super Reviewer
½ April 24, 2014
This film's title sounds either like some sort of a classic pop band or something to that effect, or, well, a cue for a narration by Waylon Jennings. "Looks like them Newton boys have themselves in a whole heap o' trouble". I joke, but this film does see Richard Linklater finally cutting back on kissing Austin's liberal feet and working on embracing more rural parts of Texas, even though he's still far from Hazzard County, Georgia. Well, this film's cast is so modern Texan that it stars Matt McConaughey and, even worse, Ethan Hawke, so that might make up for the moderate de-Austinification. Shoot, if nothing else, this film's cast shows that Linklater, by the end of the '90s, was starting to cut back on the no-names and get some big stars, which would be great and all if this film actually got any money. I find it interesting that people found Linklater's previous films about various kinds of bums walking and talking about whatever interesting enough to make them solid box office successes, yet when Linklater does something interesting, like telling the true story of bank robbers, hardly anyone goes... probably because this film isn't as exciting as one might expect. No, it's a little livelier than plenty of Linklater's other affairs, but entertainment value is limited, no matter how much the film tries to fluff things up, perhaps too much.

His directorial influence obviously filtered through commercialization of the magnitude he hadn't seen up until this time, Richard Linklater cannot overshadow moments of overt fluff that cheese up the lighter aspects which, quite frankly, are perhaps a little too prominent in this dramatically promising opus, yet when Linklater does work in drama, he sustains the fluff and joins his and Clark Lee Walker's unsubtle dialogue to establish a sense of melodrama that superficializes depth. Such depth is superficialized enough by such other writing shortcomings as lacking characterization, which not only thins out the layers that could have been abundant in this character study, but focuses a touch too intensely on only a few primary characters, while leaving supporting roles that could have enriched the plot to feel as though they're placed much lower in priority than they ought to be. Linklater and Walker, as screenwriters, give you only so much to chew on in this ostensibly layered ensemble piece, and when they actually try to expand focus, it jars, forcing shifts between fluff and weight, despite a consistency in cheesiness, when not dropping the ball when it comes to organically flowing along the plot layers. The film has a lot of material to cover, and when it's not disregarding some of its depths, it's juggling the layers a little unevenly, and yet, as much as the film proves to be too tight for comfort in certain places, it's still too long, meandering enough along repetitious filler and excesses in material to drag its way to its two-hour runtime, only to end up going places that are expected. As if the overplaying on humor and superficial dramatics and characterization aren't reflective enough of this film's being too commercial for its own good, the final product hardly does anything new as a bank-robbing gangster period flick, thriving on stereotypical characters, formulaic plot beats and altogether a plethora of tropes, until, even if you're somehow not aware of the story of the Newton Gang, predictability stands firm. Not much is new in this film, which therefore has only so much worth remembering, for although there's plenty of inspiration, the laziness to subtlety, depth and structuring help in crafting a film that isn't engaging enough to endear as thoroughly as one might hope. Regardless, the film endears adequately, sometimes pretty solidly, being pretty entertaining, and even handsome.

Trying to put a little more scope to a once-intimate visual style, Richard Linklater doesn't utilize his trademark smooth framing and trademark tracking shots that much in this film, but Peter James' cinematography makes up for visual style limitations with well-polished coloration and warm lighting which, while not too attractive during darker scenes, catches your eyes often, though not as consistently as the art direction whose handsomeness goes augmented by the visual style. Yes, as a tribute to some of the more then-modern Texas landscapes of the 1920s, this film goes all out in distinguishing its setting, thus, art directors Andrea Dopaso, John Frick and Randy Moore go all out in making the visuals of the period appealing in their near-intricate distinctiveness, if not aesthetic quality. Style is there, and when it comes to substance, the film falls short when it comes to doing justice to an interesting portrait on the struggles of and dynamics between the blood-bound members of the Newton Gang and their peers, but not too short, because as questionable as Clark Lee Walker and Richard Linklater are in their writing a rather superficially characterized and dramatically uneven script, dialogue is generally sharp enough to amuse, and heavier aspects are genuine enough, or at least hearty enough in their ambitious melodrama to bite. In concept, the narrative gets juicier and juicier as it progresses as a character study, but as irony would have it, the execution gradually loses steam the more you get used to the faulty writing, yet there's enough momentum throughout the final product to keep you engaged by a decent script, in which there is enough material to at least inspire some decent performances. Now, dramatic material is certainly lacking, but this solid, almost all-star cast delivers as best it can, with leading man Matthew McConaughey particularly standing out with his charisma, at least until heavier dramatic spots come into play and allow McConaughey's peers to match him in emoting that is solid enough to encompass the meat that can indeed be found through all the superficialities of this light drama. The onscreen talent does what it can and delivers consistently, whereas the offscreen talent carries lazy spots, in addition to ambitious spots that fall short, and yet, the film still comes to the brink of rewarding, largely on the back of ambition's being met with inspiration in direction by Linklater that is held back, either by the producers or by Linklater's not having too much conviction to transcend the producers' superficial tastes, but well-paced enough to keep entertainment value adequate, if not with steady moments that prove effective in drawing on the limited depths of this drama, and providing glimpses into what could have been. What ultimately is in this project is an underwhelming effort that betrays potential, which still stands clear enough in view for the final product to entertain and often engage as a borderline, if only "borderline" rewarding affair.

Bottom line, cheesy spots in humor and melodrama, superficiality to characterization, inconsistency to tone and pacing, and an overall lack of originality leave the film to limp out as underwhelming, while inspiration to handsome visual style, distinguished art direction, charismatic performances and sharp highlights in writing and direction secure Richard Linklater's "The Newton Boys" as a plenty entertaining and almost plenty compelling period biopic, despite its superficiality.

2.75/5 - Decent
February 9, 2014
This is one of those movies that the first time I watched it, I was kinda like "ah, it's ok" but then improved drastically with a second viewing. Director Richard Linklater, was clearly enamored of his subject and approaches these criminals as personifications of the misunderstood man and carefree American spirit. The period details are well-done and all the actors have charm to spare, but the fact remains--*these are criminals and they are stealing other people's money.* If you have nothing to do on a sunday. This is the film to watch.
½ January 11, 2014
Nice ending - I love old school flicks
November 22, 2013
I got the sheriff's pecker in my pocket

Four Texas cowboys from a poor farming family in the 20s decide a poor man's life is not the life for them. They head on a rampage of robbing banks across the country. They rob over 80 banks and 6 trains without ever getting caught or killing someone; however, one day a new group they decide to work with causes things to go astray. Can the Newton boys quit the game and start a new life, or are they destined for jail or maybe even death?

"You don't look like any criminal I've met."
"You'd be right about that."

Richard Linklater, director of Dazed and Confused, Before Sunrise, The School of Rock, Before Sunset, Bad News Bears, A Scanner Darkly, Bernie, and Before Midnight, delivers The Newton Boys. The storyline for this picture is very interesting and reminded me of Lawless. The action scenes are solid, the script is well written, and the character development is very good. The cast delivers worthwhile performances and includes Mathew McConaughey, Ethan Hawke, Skeet Ulrich, Vincent D'Onofrio, and Gail Cronauer.

"Ain't this a hell of a way to make a living?"

I've actually began watching more Mathew McConaughey movies after thoroughly enjoying his last few pictures (Paper Boy, Mud and Killer Joe). I actually thought this movie was better than I anticipated (I had never heard of it until I scrolled through his movies). I loved how they showed interviews with the actual Newton Boys during the closing credits. Overall, this is an entertaining gangster movie and period piece that is definitely worth your time.

"God hates a coward."

Grade: B
½ November 9, 2013
A stylish and decidedly old-fashioned movie based on true story. Unfortunately it becomes somewhat unfocused and loses dramatic impact as the story goes along.
September 19, 2013
A handsome production that nicely evokes the 1920s and a likeable cast headed by McConaughey can't compensate for a Western-gangster film that's too diffuse and lacks a discernibel POV to be dramatically engaging.
½ September 11, 2013
Uninspired tale of four bank-robbing brothers in the 1920s. Nice period details, but it's ultimately a dull two hours.
August 4, 2013
an good bank robbing movie
½ July 17, 2013
Entertaining moments with a likeable enough cast but an overall lacklustre effort that wasn't all that well put together.
July 2, 2013
Richard Linklater hat so viele gute Filme gemacht, ich bin willig ihm viel zu verzeihen. Zum Beispiel dass er allzu oft Projekte übernommen hat, die augenscheinlich keine persönlichen sind, und in denen dann folglich auch nicht sein Herzblut steckt.

Herzblut ist für Linklaters Oeuvre aber essentiell. Nur so kommen seine genialen Dialoge zur Entfaltung und der Charme der Banalität des Alltags zum Tragen.

Wie auch immer, The Newton Boys vereint Linklater Regulars Ethan Hawke und Matthew McConaughey als Brüder neben Skeet Ulrich und Vincent D'Onofrio. Diese Brüder sind die Newton Boys, und sie rauben Banken aus.

Angesiedelt in einer Ära zwischen Western und den klassischen Gangstergeschichten der 30er Jahre ist nicht uninteressant, aber nach und nach verändert sich der Film dann doch zum recht generischen Gangsterdrama.

Die Newton Boys waren die erfolgreichsten Bankräuber in der Geschichte der USA, und keiner von ihnen stirbt, so viel sei verraten, somit stellen die Jungs eine Rarität in der organisierten Kriminalität der Vereinigten Staaten dar. Sie sind eine Gruppe Cowboys, die sich nicht mit Armut und Mühsal begnügen wollen und ein alternatives" Geschäftsmodell aufziehen.

Wer einen Linklater-Film erwartet wird enttäuscht sein, The Newton Boys ist Hollywooddurchschnittsware, wenn er auch in gewisser Hinsicht an seinen späteren Film Bernie erinnert. Einzig die Schauspieler und der geniale Soundtrack wissen vollends zu überzeugen.

Der Film ist, wie gesagt, kein Revolutionär des Genres, aber alles in allem ganz ok, überhaupt wenn Ethan Hawke denn Mund aufmacht so gar hie und da ganz lustig.
½ June 29, 2013
A true story of the Newton brothers, who are regarded as the most successful bank robbers in the history of the United States. Not as good as i thought it was going to be kind of a let down !!
January 5, 2013
Doesn't bring anything new to the table but a great cast and solid performances elevate it above mediocrity.
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