Available on Netflix.
Based on the true life story of the Fletcher Street stables in north Philadelphia, we find this heartfelt, if familiar story of troubled kid trying to find his way in life on difficult city streets surrounded by poverty, drugs, alcohol and gang culture. Colt (Caleb McLaughlin) is expelled from his Detroit high school and his mother decides to take him to his father (Idris Elba) for the summer in the hope he can straighten him out. Harp is a north Philly cowboy, running one of the last inner city stables. The stables are trying to hold off the relentless march of gentrification that continues to displace poor communities. It is within this environment Colt is challenged with finding himself and his purpose while avoiding the potential traps that life on the streets of inner cities are laced with.
Concrete Cowboy is a slow moving mix of stories, there is a familiar one as Colt struggles with finding his path in life as his Dad imparts classic tough love wisdom on him. This runs the risk of pushing him into a life on the streets with his childhood friend Smush (Jharrel Jerome) who is involved with drugs, gangs and their inherent risks. Alongside this is a gentle story of developing relationships and hope.
The film raises questions about displacement of poor communities and the threatening undercurrent of a gang culture that awaits the young disenfranchised men in them. In McLaughlin there is a solid and engaging central performance as he struggles to balance loyalty to his friend with the growing positive influence of working with the horses and people at the stables. He is well supported by Elba, Jerome and some impressive performances from an amateur cast made up of members of the real stables and cowboy community.
It’s not a film that is going to stand out as it treads its familiar path, but it certainly it is engaging, warm and watchable. It also does a good job of capturing the almost tragic inevitability of the situation, for both the stables and young men in poor inner cities.
Concrete Cowboy is patient and emotionally engaging, filled with good, watchable performances. The story, while predictable, is interesting enough and certainly drew me in and kept me invested in it from start to finish.