Fox // 1998 // 122 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Chief Justice Sean McGinnis (Retired) // July 12th, 1999
History is about to catch up with America's most successful bank robbers.
The Newton Boys was a hell of a lot more entertaining than I expected it to be. Too bad Fox didn't ante up with the goods from the video and extras standpoint.
The Newton Boys tells the true story of America's most successful bank robbers. Well, at least I think it's true. That's the tough part about films that portend to be based on historical truth. Unless you were either there, or have the time, talent and inclination to check the facts there really is no way to be sure. But, this one sure seems to fit the bill.
Will Newton (Matthew McConaughey) is the leader of the gang. His brothers Joe (Skeet Ulrich), Jess (Ethan Hawke) and Dock (Vincent D'Onofrio) round out the family business. Outsider and explosives expert Brentwood Glasscock (Dwight Yoakam) completes the gang. The gang runs roughshod over the Great Plains states, blowing up banks with square shaped safes, because they are easily blown, and collecting a whole lot of money. Will tries to go legit and loses all the cash on a bad oil well. They then hold up a postal train carrying some $3,000,000 and gum up the works. Eventually they all get caught. I won't give away the ending, but suffice it to say, it is humorous. I know, that doesn't sound like much of a plot, but I must tell you it's a lot better than it sounds on paper. The director and writer use comedy throughout to create a funny little trip back in time. And for those of your concerned about violence, there is not one death throughout the entire film. The Newton boys never killed a soul throughout their little crime spree.
There is some fine work done here by this largely ensemble cast. Particularly of note is the performance turned in by country singer Dwight Yoakam. I had no idea this good ole boy was so talented. If he fit the bill for a part in my movie, I would cast him in a second. Ethan Hawke was also excellent. Maybe not quite up to his terrific performance in Gattaca, but awfully good nonetheless. The rest of the cast did a fine job too.
The audio track was quite good. There were certainly enough explosions to give any subwoofer a pretty good workout. The surrounds were mostly background work, with the occasional gunshot running off behind. The nice thing here is Fox has given us separate 5.1 and 2.0 tracks for those without Dolby Digital processors. I like that. And I think it should happen on every disc that streets these days (unless the film was never done in 5.1).
The video was pretty problematic. There were a few black level problems in certain scenes and the video overall was a bit soft for my liking. The 2.35:1 letterbox presentation would have benefited from the anamorphic treatment, or a steadier hand at the bench. Flesh tones were mostly decent, but I did notice a few scenes that appeared overly red. In short, the crew that put this transfer together needs some additional work.
The extras on this disc are pretty minimal. It includes a bio of the talent involved and a trailer for the film. Once again, the trailer was in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, while the film itself was in the wider 2.35:1. I wish I knew why that is. Maybe one of our readers can help me out with this conundrum. Also included as part of the film are a couple of snippet interviews with the real Joe Newton (from a Johnny Carson show circa 1980) and Willis Newton (taped in 1975). These play over the closing credits for the most part, save for one snippet from the Carson show that plays at the beginning of the film.
This film was much more enjoyable than I though it would be. My original opinion was based on the TV spot I remember, which kept me from wanting to see this one in the theaters. It's well worth a look if you've not seen it yet.
The film is acquitted. The video needs work, and the boys at the bench for Fox are sentenced to 90 days practice working on how to make a decent transfer, before they butcher something I really like.
Review content copyright © 1999 Sean McGinnis; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
Running Time: 122 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Theatrical Trailer