The Newton Boys

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The Newton Boys
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRichard Linklater
Screenplay by
  • Richard Linklater
  • Claude Stanush
  • Clark Lee Walker
Based onThe Newton Boys
by Claude Stanush
Produced byAnne Walker-McBay
CinematographyPeter James
Edited bySandra Adair
Music byEdward D. Barnes
Detour Filmproduction
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • March 27, 1998 (1998-03-27)
Running time
122 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$27 million
Box office$10,452,012

The Newton Boys is a 1998 American Western crime film directed by Richard Linklater, who co-wrote the screenplay with Claude Stanush and Clark Lee Walker. It is based on Stanush's 1994 book of the same name, which tells the true story of the Newton Gang, a family of bank and train robbers from Uvalde, Texas. The film stars Matthew McConaughey, who was actually born in Uvalde, Skeet Ulrich, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D'Onofrio, and Dwight Yoakam. It was filmed throughout Texas including the towns of Bertram, Austin, Bartlett, New Braunfels, and San Antonio.


A miscarriage of justice lands Willis Newton in prison, and he learns quickly that as a convict his only way up the social ladder is through having money. With two others, Slim and Glasscock, he carries out a bank robbery in broad daylight. Slim is caught when the three of them try to escape on horseback while the sheriff chases them in a car. Willis and Glasscock later find a bank director who buys the looted war bonds and sells them information on plenty of other banks. Henceforth, Willis and Glasscock rob banks at night and get away by car. Glasscock turns out to be an expert with nitroglycerin. Willis talks his brothers into supporting him, telling them that bankers are the worst crooks of all and thus, robbing them of their money would only mean that little thieves are stealing from big thieves. He also says that all banks are insured anyway and that the insurance companies ought to be thankful because they would not be able to sell any insurance if there were no bank robberies.

The Newton gang is very prolific, and some bankers prove to be the crooks Willis takes them for when they exaggerate their losses. Then, the insurance companies force banks to invest in enhanced safes, which can withstand nitroglycerin. Consequently, the Newton Gang goes to Toronto and ambushes a cash transport in broad daylight. Despite an elaborate plan, many things go awry, and the gang members are scarcely able to escape. Willis decides to become "legal", but the oil well he buys is a huge setback that costs him nearly all his money. In his despair, he goes so far as to tell his wife that God did not want him to be "legit". After that, he is easily lured into another criminal endeavor. He becomes very enthusiastic about a night-time train robbery.[note 1] Unfortunately, Glasscock is not as good with a gun as he was with nitroglycerin. He confuses Dock Newton with a guard, panics, and shoots him. Willis needs to bring his wounded brother to a doctor, and this undertaking eventually blows their cover.

In the end, all the Newton brothers are finally arrested and sentenced.



The film received mixed reviews from critics, with a 65% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 40 reviews. The site's consensus states: "The Newton Boys uses a sharp cast and absorbing period detail to help make up for the frustrations of a story puzzlingly short on dramatic tension."[2] Metacritic gave the film a score of 57 based on 20 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[3] Roger Ebert gave the film two stars, writing "It's not an enormous cast, and yet somehow the Newtons are hard to tell apart--not in appearance, but in personality...the film as a whole seems drained of thrust and energy--especially compared to (Richard Linklater's) earlier films."[4]


  1. ^ The train robbery depicted was that of the Milwaukee Road's Fast Mail on June 12, 1924.[1]


  1. ^ "Robberies". Smithsonian National Postal Museum. Retrieved January 16, 2022.
  2. ^ "The Newton Boys (1998)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2 September 2022.
  3. ^ "The Newton Boys Reviews". Metacritic.
  4. ^ Ebert, Roger. "The Newton Boys". Retrieved 20 April 2022.

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