Great director. Great cast. Average movie. ‘The Newton Boys’ has a compelling, fact-based story at its core about America’s most successful and non-violent bank robbers, but its impact is curtailed by an uneven tone.
Directed by Richard Linklater, ‘The Newton Boys’ follows the four brothers on their crime spree, from a haphazardly executed daytime bank raid to the fateful, night-time train robbery that saw their run come to an end. Enthusiasm gives way to greed, and careful planning at the outset eventually dissolves into cocksure mistakes from the self-appointed lead brother. There’s little attempts to look deeper into these characters, however, despite a 2-hour runtime that gives ample opportunity to do so. This is where the film detaches us emotionally.
The music is the main culprit, often jovial during the action and clearly intending the experience to be a light and entertaining crime caper with comic elements thrown in for good measure; it doesn’t want a heavy atmosphere rife with jeopardy for its audacious young cowboy protagonists – it wants to be a good old-fashioned yarn.
But then this clashes with some serious scenes and conversations: a supporting character at one point, for example, tears up as they express fear over the future and regret for they’re complicity, but it never quite rings true for us as the audience because of the tonal inconsistencies beforehand. The film’s pivotal moments – though watchable – are diluted as a result.
Overall, if ‘The Newton Boys’ had delivered a serious treatment of the real-life story, then this could have been a powerful period drama about greed. As it is, it’s a passable diversion in the company of Matthew McConaughey, Ethan Hawke, Skeet Ulrich, and Vincent D’Onofrio.
Score – 6/10