Friday Film Review--"Concrete Cowboy"
Movie cowboys are back. But maybe not the way you think.
Libby Wadman has the explanation, with this week’s Friday Film Review.
First time director and co-writer, Ricky Staub, has a winner with his film "Concrete Cowboy", based on the young adult novel "Ghetto Cowboy" by Greg Neri.
"Concrete Cowboy" is the coming-of-age story of teenager Cole, who feels very disenfranchised at school and at odds with his single mother. When Cole is expelled from school, his mother, as a last resort drives him to Philadelphia and leaves him on his father’s doorstep. Cole is lost, as it has been years since he last saw his dad or Philadelphia. When his father is less than welcoming and sets up what Cole feels are over the top rules, Cole takes up hanging out with his cousin, Smush, on the streets. As Cole learns more about his father and the group of urban cowboys of which he is a part and experiences some very hard lessons hanging out with his cousin, Cole starts to see life through different lenses.
Director Staub and his co-writer Dan Walser have put together a good, if predictable, screenplay that allows all the actors to shine. Staub has also done a fine job of including some of the actual members of the Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club into the film, providing a good blend of fiction and reality. The stories these men tell in the movie are unscripted and filmed without direction, as they are their own personal stories. This just adds to the impact of the film and meaning to the importance of what this group does.
The cast, including Idris Elba as Cole’s dad, Lorraine Toussaint as neighbor Nessie, and Caleb McLaughlin as Cole, provides a strong performance. The bond between them is real, whether it is between seasoned or young actors or the members of the riding club. They are all one very cohesive unit.
Aside from the cast being a worthy watch, "Concrete Cowboy" is a lovely way to learn about a way of life that has existed for over 100 years. While the story is pure fiction, its backdrop of the Fletcher Street Stables in North Philadelphia is real. Hollywood is famous for portraying cowboys as being white and living in the wild west, yet there has been a group of Black cowboys in North Philadelphia for over 100 years. These men spend their time caring for the horses, finding housing for them as gentrification moves in, but most of all, they provide a haven for the area’s youth about as far away from the city turbulence as possible. Through riding lessons, caring for the horses, and entering competitions, the youth find purpose and a reason for being, which helps to keep them off the streets.
While "Concrete Cowboy" may not rock your world, it is a good watch and more than anything, provides the viewer a look into a little known but valuable piece of history and current times.
"Concrete Cowboy" is rated R for language throughout, drug use and some violence and is a wonderful way to spend an hour and 51 minutes. It is currently streaming for free on Netflix.
This is Libby Wadman, with the Friday film review, reminding you that film is always fun and fascinating.