April 1, 2021

SCREEN | Idris Elba Rides the Pavement – 'Concrete Cowboy'

"Only home I ever known was the back of a horse."
Idris Elba Caleb McLaughlin Lorraine Toussaint Method Man Ricky Staub | Concrete Cowboy | Netflix
Waxylu Films
Star Idris Elba (also a producer) dives into the Black urban cowboy subculture in Northern Philidelphia inspired by the Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club based on the young adult novel Ghetto Cowboy written by author Greg Neri in first-time director Ricky Staub's soulful film adaptation. Co-starring Caleb McLaughlin as the estranged, troubled teenage son (Cole) from Detroit of Elba's Harp who's sent to live with him, Concrete Cowboy tells a familiar father/son tale of African-American parenthood told through a sort of contemporary western lens.

For over a century, African-Americans on Fletcher Street in North Philly have been roaming their close-knit communities in the prevention of gang violence and other neighbourhood trouble set against a rapidly gentrifying urban background. This easy yet irresistible premise makes for the basic premise for Staub's film about displaced fatherhood's lingering legacy on sons.

There's an instant sense of familiarity thanks to its charming cast of characters played Jharrel Jerome, Lorraine Toussaint, Method Man, and several non-actors from the actual Riding Club that inspired the book and film as various figures to Harp and Cole. It's a stirring tale of Black men and horses to reflect on masculine identities as a result of harsh economic realities.

Staub and Elba's coming-of-age fable of Black displacement feels somewhat scattered despite its charming but predictable material and unlikely setting. Its story of fatherhood and defiant sons lends to a familial feeling of soul and community while reminding us of the forgotten legacy of Black cowboys whitewashed by history. Concrete Cowboy also further acts as a welcome antidote to tough-guy machismo.

Concrete Cowboy is available to stream on Netflix.

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