Review: Concrete Cowboy

CONCRETE COWBOY (2021)

A look at the modern-day Black cowboys continuously displaced over the years in Philadelphia, Concrete Cowboy features compelling performances by well-known actors and actual members of the community that infuse the film with undeniable heart.

A mix of Hollywood storytelling and real-life influences, Concrete Cowboy tells the tale of a young boy (Caleb McLaughlin) sent to Philadelphia to live with his estranged father (Idris Elba) in a community of Black cowboys. McLaughlin’s teen character is acting out and clearly at odds with his father from the start, choosing to run with the wrong crowd. What we come to learn is that the community surrounding the care and riding of the horses is close, strong, and influential with those who partake. Striking interviews with real-life cowboys of the Fletcher Street Stables highlight the role the group has played in the development of many members. 

Most impactful is the realization that said cowboys have been displaced time and time again in Philadelphia as the city continues to gentrify, threatening their ongoing existence and pitting them at odds with neighbors and city officials alike. First-time director/writer Ricky Staub balances both the familial and community dramas before intertwining them, though sometimes the fictionalized story wades into pedestrian waters and overshadows the true strength of the script. Both McLaughlin and Elba, as well as the rest of the cast (hey Lorraine Toussaint!), are remarkably strong throughout. Elba truly has become a chameleon in terms of the roles he can take and excel at.

Concrete Cowboy is an important example of the power of a film to draw attention to a lesser-known part of the American culture. Having lived in and around Philadelphia my entire life, I received a lesson just by watching. Though the story may stray and interest wane, the powerful story of these real-life Black cowboys will rope you back in and leave an impact.

Concrete Cowboy is now available to stream on Netflix.

Rating: 4/5

Photo from Netflix Junkie

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