The Newton Boys (1999)


Is it a crime to enjoy a good criminal flick? If so, America is in grave danger. We loved Entrapment, laughed over Bandits, and rooted for the bad guys in American Outlaws. The Newton Boys follows the same track, asking us to enjoy the endeavors of the most infamous bank robbers in our nation's history. It's full of great quips, surprisingly likable characters, enough adventure to make Buffalo Bill jealous, and has a great courtroom climax. The only problem is that each of these boys need their mouths washed out with soap.


The Newtons don't have a clean record with the government. Their pa was always in and out of jail, two of the brothers spent quality time in prison, and their mother isn't overly concerned with their illegal habits. Willis Newton has just returned home after a long stint in jail. But he's not about to turn around and play the good guy. He becomes involved with a small gang of bank robbers. But their first attempt fails miserably when the trio is followed and nearly captured. One of them is caught. The other two -- Willis and a man by the name of Brentwood -- decide to up the stakes. No more midday hold-ups and flights on horseback. They're going to go in at night, blow the safe, and escape in an auto car. Traveling into the northeast, they pull off one successful job. But they need help. Willis knows a couple of fellas not overly concerned with breaking the law... and sends for his brothers Joe and Jess. Joe, the youngest, doesn't like the idea. It doesn't seem right, robbing from people. But as Willis reminds him, they're not robbing from people -- they're stealing from banks, which are insured by money-grubbing crooks.


Unwillingly, his brother agrees to help and the Newtons start making a name for themselves. Soon their other brother, Dock, is released from prison... and joins them in their midnight endeavors. With the help of a couple inside men, the Newtons are becoming notorious. No one can figure out who these daring bank robbers are or where they'll strike next. So far they haven't had to fire a shot (they don't like killing people) and are raking in the cash. Jess loves his new riches so much he uses it to buy liquor by the gallons... and to impress the ladies. Willis in the meantime has befriended a young woman with a ten-year-old son. But sooner or later everything is going to hit a rocky spot. His beloved has no idea what he really does for "work," and the Newtons can't keep up their pattern without arousing the keen curiosity of the US government. When the stakes get high, this outlaw gang might fold like a deck of cards.


The Newton Boys isn't quite as fun as Maverick, but it's rare one enjoys a criminal flick so much. The characters are a lot of fun, have a certain amount of integrity (they "don't steal from women and children, and don't shoot people"), and their sense of humor pops up in the most surprising of places. The cast is top-notch with many familior -- and might I add good-looking -- faces. Unfortunately, the film has two fatal flaws. Firstly, the "good guys" -- known as government ages -- are portrayed as devious, cruel, malicious, and undisciplined. They aren't above threats, blackmail, accepting bribes, and battering around their prisoners. I resent this implication because it's a generalization and defaces public authority. Secondly -- and most importantly -- is the absolutely foul language. I actually had to repent for watching the entire film because my mind was filled with such filth afterward. Early on it's not that bad... mild profanity is in almost every line, but towards the middle Jesus' name is used much more flippantly, and by the end every other word is GD. I lost count how many times I heard them fly across the room; probably two dozen times or more in an expanse of two hours. It was terrible and made the rest of the film's brighter aspects much more intolerable. SOB also pops up often.


The other content issues are mild in comparison. Bank windows blow out, shattering glass on bystanders. Explosions rock buildings. In a robbery gone wrong several police officers are shot. One of the gang is mistaken for an escaping policeman and shot brutally -- we see the gory aftermath of his blood-drenched body in many scenes following. The private investigator in charge actually inflicts pain on the wounded man in order to force him into a confession; he also hits Joe with a case of quarters and punches Willis in the face. Newton's relationship with his girlfriend is never shown in detail -- but he does drag her into the bathtub as a joke. It comes up that she's still married to her husband, who ran out on her after their son was born. One of the most interesting parts of the film is the trial, as well as the actual interviews with members of the Newton gang during the final credits. It's an interesting film but I would only see it if it ran edited on television. The language would make a sailor blush.


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