‘Concrete Cowboy’: A Modern Western With a Twist

Streaming on Netflix on April 2, “Concrete Cowboy” follows the story of Cole (Caleb Mclaughlin), a 15-year-old boy from Detroit that is constantly up to no good. As a result of his troubled pattern, his mother (Liz Priestley) drives him down to Philadelphia to spend the summer with his father, Harp (Idris Elba).

As the story progresses, Cole is constantly being thrown through a loop. Immediately after walking into his father’s home, he is greeted by a horse. His father claims he stays there. The next day, Cole is outside on the stoop when Smush (Jharrel Jerome), his old childhood friend, drives by. After spending the whole day with Smush and catching up, he notices some of his new hobbies, which includes dealing drugs. Upon returning home, his dad throws him out for spending time with him; he does not want him to follow his example and believes hanging around a drug dealer will end badly.


Without anywhere to go, Cole goes off to the stables to sleep. Flash forward, and he’s meeting the other riders. He expresses an interest in learning to ride, but is told he needs to help around the stables. Following that, he begins to learn the ropes of riding while secretly spending time with Smush on the side.

Upon returning, Harp and Cole have a real come to Jesus moment as they partake in a heated argument. Without giving away too many spoilers, it was emotional and laid everything out on the line. Harp explains to him his issues with Smush while explaining his past. This scene was one of my favorites. The emotions were raw; it was just a solid father-son moment. Their relationship had been strained, so it was one of those arguments that needed to happen in order to mend their relationship. 

During this time, Cole also formed a bond with one of Harp’s horses, Boo. When he got out one night, Cole ended up being the only one able to tame him. After that, Cole learns of Smush’s plan to buy a ranch out west, as he used to be a rider. His current hobbies are all to pay for the future farm. When Cole assists Smush on one of his drug deals, the events backfire, and the cops show up.

The two escape, but things still aren’t looking up, Smush gets shot, and Cole runs off to the stables. Cole claims he is done with “ this life.” However, during this time, the horses are seized due to complaints. Harp finds Cole and says they will have a proper burial for Smush. This results in everyone going to where the horses have been taken and freeing them. 

“Concrete Cowboy” was a compelling movie. I had no idea of the Cowboy and Horse community of North Philly, as this was based on the book “Ghetto Cowboy” by Greg Neri. Greg based the characters on the “Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club.” The film did an extraordinary job building relationships and expressing natural emotions and issues, especially the estranged relationship of Cole and Harp. The way it went from the two arguing  and not understanding each other to bonding over music in the next frame was incredible. It was fantastic to see two characters linking after being apart for multiple years. It gives the viewer a sense of understanding as if we see this in real-time. If you like cowboys, drama and scenes of North Philadelphia—such as close-ups of the streets and the stables—then this is the film for you.

“Concrete Cowboy” is available to stream on Netflix.

By Megan Yamrich

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