This is one of those rare, reframe-the-conversation films, like “Paris Is Burning,” “12 O’Clock Boys” and “Rize,” that take a very specific subculture and turn it into something universal and uplifting — only this one isn’t a documentary, despite the many real-world details that bring director Ricky Staub’s exceptional father-son drama to life.
While I admit I would have preferred a documentary about the people who have passed this tradition down from generation to generation, director Ricky Staub’s fictional feature serves as a worthwhile introduction.
Where have all the cowboys gone? The idea of placing cowboys in the 21st century and in a big city is almost a breath of fresh air for the western genre. I said almost because the first 40 minutes feel a bit slow but it compensates step by step with a stimulating story of estranged father and son. Believe it or not, it has a bit of real life inspiration.
The movie was refreshing, especially being that has Afro-Americans. The story is well developed however, I wished that we could see a lot of title bit more about how the father and son reconnected. The acting was good and the movie felt real.
Concrete Cowboy is visually engaging, and might appeal to younger teenagers (its R-rating is primarily for language). But anyone already familiar with the dynamics of summer-vacation character-building may find it unsatisfying—even unconvincing.
Concrete Cowboy starts beautifully. Moving with meaning and purpose, leaving you curious as to how the story will unfold but unfortunately it quickly looses its way. Halfway through you wonder if the story is at all worth your time. The plot looses focus and the movie becomes a patchwork of its characters going through random events. Although the movie is beautifully shot, it sometimes tries to overstate its very real drama without doing much storytelling.
However, in its final thirty minutes Concrete Cowboy finds its way back to its center. Which is the strained relationship between Idris Elba's character Harp - and his son Cole played by Caleb McLaughlin (from Stranger Things), with the backdrop of the Fletcher Street Stables.
Harp and Cole's relationship is the most interesting part of the movie. And both Idris Elba and especially Caleb McLaughlin showcase their acting ability, doing brilliantly in their respective roles. Definitely, both actors are the brightest parts of Concrete Cowboy's somewhat disjointed plot.
Overall, the movie tries to tell the true story that black people are cowboys too. And how the Fletcher Street Stables represented a moment in Black Cowboy history while being a place of stability for the community. It is a very watchable movie that shows part of the heritage of Black Cowboys. Albeit it could have been better executed with a more coherent plot.
It's a modest coming of age story, and a productive and engaging portrait of a community that I really knew nothing about.
However, I must emphasize that the script fails the actors a bit.
It doesn't give them much to make it feel more dynamic or vibrant, and the dialogues are also somewhat weak.
It's still interesting though, but it doesn't get rid of the notion that much of its events feel quite manipulated.
And as I said, it's not the actors fault, they do believe the situations, there's simply a notorious lack of spontaneity in everything.
With errors, but I still liked it.
'Concrete Cowboy' is your regular coming of age film. Caleb McLaughlin shines as a troubled kid finding his place in a new community, as well as a new relationship with his estranged father. The chemistry with Idris Elba is good, but the conflict's outcome can be seen since the beginning. What first-time director Ricky Staub achieves is giving a glimpse — to brief, in my opinion — into the urban black cowboys of Philadelphia. It's a shame that the spot got shadow by a typical melodrama.