There is a quote that has been going around for years and years, attributed apocryphally to Ronald Reagan, Winston Churchill and a few other white men: “There is nothing better for a man’s interior than the exterior of a horse. ” In “Concrete Cowboy,” the improved aspects of riding – and, yes, stable upkeep – are demonstrated in the story of troubled black teenager Cole (Caleb McLaughlin).
One afternoon, Cole’s mother comes to pick him up from school after a fight gets him kicked out. She is so fed up with her son that she drives him from their home in Detroit to Philadelphia, where her silent father, Harp (Idris Elba) lives. With a horse.
Harp is part of a group of urban horsemen. There isn’t a lot of room in Philadelphia for big stables, so it’s both fishing and catching. Nonetheless, Harp and his cronies maintain their operations copacetic enough that they are not only tolerated but adopted by much of their community, although local cop Leroy (Method Man) warns that authorities may soon break their party. Cole is educated in the sense of the horse; its formation features a close-up in your face of a wheelbarrow full of manure.
Directed by Ricky Staub and adapted from G. Neri’s young adult novel “Ghetto Cowboy,” this image offers a standard redemption story, with a temptation in the form of Cole’s renewed connection with an old friend involved in trafficking. drug. But the film’s compelling accretion of detail and its loving fictionalization of an actual subculture is disarming. (Some of the supporting players are members of the Fletcher Street Riders; the characters they play speak to the actual story of the black cowboy in a scene around a vacant campfire.) Elba suit his confident manhood well, and McLaughlin handles Cole’s challenge and at times nearly equine nervousness with considerable depth.
Rated R for themes, language, drug use. Duration: 1 hour 51 minutes. Watch on Netflix.