This film could have been titled “There Will Be Beef.”
The Newton boys were the most successful bank robbers in American history, up until the savings and loan bandits of the 1980s. Operating in the Roaring '20s, they hit as many as 200 banks and then pulled off the nation's biggest train robbery, a mail train heist in northern Illinois. Despite their remarkable record, they never became as famous as John Dillinger or "Bonnie and Clyde". On the basis of this movie, I suspect it was because they were too respectable.
"The Newton Boys'' tells the story of the four brothers and a friend who knew how to handle nitroglycerine. Operating mostly at night, blowing up safes that were no match for their skill, they worked under a simple code: no killing, no stealing from women and children and no snitching. According to the film, they managed to complete their criminal careers without shooting anybody except one of their own brothers, by accident.
The brothers are played by a roll call of gifted young actors: Matthew McConaughey (Willis, the oldest), Skeet Ulrich (Joe), Ethan Hawke (Jess) and Vincent D'Onofrio (Dock). Dwight Yoakam is Brentwood Glasscock, their explosives expert, who pours nitro as if intensely curious about what it would feel like to be vaporized in the next nanosecond. Julianna Margulies plays Louise, the cigar-store girl who hitches up with Willis without knowing his real name or occupation, and Chloe Webb is Glasscock's approving wife. It's not an enormous cast, and yet somehow the Newtons are hard to tell apart--not in appearance, but in personality. Their dialogue mostly strikes the same musing, loquacious note.
The film chronicles their criminal career in a low-key, meandering way; we're hanging out with them more than we're being told a story. There are a lot of conversations about the profession of bank robbery--which, as a topic for conversation, is not a whole lot more interesting than double-entry bookkeeping.