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The Newton Boys

There's not much to distinguish Willis Newton (Matthew McConaughey) from your ordinary Old West outlaw bank robber, and neither is there much to distinguish The Newton Boys, a biopic about the infamous leader of a true-life robbery gang who hit 40 banks during a few short years in the 1920s, until they were caught after a less-than-smooth $3 million train robbery. There may have been a way to spin Willis Newton's family exploits into a telling American epic, but unfortunately, director Richard Linklater doesn't seem interested. What he does deliver is a mildly diverting, run-of-the-mill robbery spree rehash, which offers nothing like the provocative point-of-view of memorable gangster forays such as Bonnie and Clyde or Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, nor the taut suspense of cracking heist-thrillers like Richard Brooks' The Professionals. Instead, Linklater wastes intriguing minor characters (like three of the title characters) and obliges the audience with stale clichés like the "good-times" montage of banks exploding and money rolling in. The best part of The Newton Boys is the final credits, and not only for the relief they bring after over two hours of undistinguished filmmaking, but because they are accompanied by interviews with a few of the real Newton brothers reflecting back on their criminal careers from the perspective of old age. Also starring Ethan Hawke, Skeet Ulrich, Vincent D'Onofrio, Julianna Margulies, and Dwight Yoakam, each of whom is given short shrift. Presented in 2.35:1 widescreen, 16x9 enhanced, and both Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 Surround. Trailer, textual supplements, keep case.

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