Baby, all you need to know is that Idris Elba is a rough, home grown Philadelphia cowboy riding through the urban streets in Concrete Cowboy, which is an eye-opening glance into a faction of society most are not familiar with, but will have you grinning from ear to ear with sheer joy. This story of family reconciliation invites us into one of America’s most unique subcultures, a generations-old world of Black horse trainers on the streets of North Philly.
Cole’s (McLaughlin) mother was spent. After watching him get expelled from yet another Detroit school, she drives 600 miles and drops him off on his father’s doorstep in North Philly. Harp (Elba) offers few explanations for his absence from his son’s life and distance himself further by isolating his affection for horses at the Fletcher Street stables down the block. But, when he makes an attempt with a John Coltrane backdrop, one is reminded how tender, gentle and profound Black men can be when they make the effort with their sons.
After many false attempts to leave Cole realizes he has no choice but to stay in Philly. His father encourages his son to keep himself grounded and out of trouble doing grunt work at the stables. After reconnecting with his childhood buddy, “Smush” (Jharrel Jerome), whose life But Smush’s is fuelled by drug dealing, Cole finds himself grappling with slipping back into his friendship and ways, or allowing hard, dirty stable work bring him closer to his father.
Imagine being sent to live your parent for the summer and your summer camp involves sleeping with horse in the living room. The look on that child’s face when he crosses the threshold is hilarious. This film unpacks a lot. More than anything we watch a community bond together while sharing the sordid history of why horses were banished from cities in the first place around a campfire. It was not lost on me how he importance of owning property has always been a complicated and sore issue within the African American community and expertly weaved throughout this urban tale of heart and grit.
Idris Elba does what he does best…be a man. A man with wrapped up in fear, love, hope and quiet integrity. Jharrel Jerome is stellar and Caleb McLaughlin proves his is shining star on the rise, Method Man and the cast is rounded out and complemented with the presence of the fantabulous Lorraine Toussaint and a host of real-life urban cowboys.
Director Ricky Staub’s adaptation of Greg Neri’s novel features multiple standout performances and highlights the rich and forgotten legacy of Black cowboys. Produced by Lee Daniels, Idris Elba, Jennifer Madeloff and Tucker Tooley, Concrete Cowboy is an urban coming of age story masked as a father and son reawakening while finding purpose in community, the natural world, and family along the way.