In summary, Concrete Cowboy is inner-city troubled youth gets tough love via horses. This two hour Netflix film will not be for everyone, especially if you are offended by the repeated use of the N-word. And, the film has a much slower pace, befitting its “Western” theme. Still, the premise is so different that I recommend you give it a chance. Curiosity overcomes any issues as the viewer can’t help but wonder why Harp keeps a horse in his home. In case you didn’t know, home is North Philadelphia. Based on a true story, the Fletcher Street Stables gives kids a second chance, to claim a path out of the “hood on horseback.”
Impressively, several of the actors are real-life participants of the Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club. They mesh quite well into the story. Some viewers may be upset by the “tough love” approach of Concrete Cowboy. For them, you choose the street, or you choose “hard work.” After all, “horses aren’t the only things need breaking-in around here.” Either you follow the rules, or they lock you out. “If you wanna’ ride the horse, you gotta’ work the stables.” But, if you follow the rules, love is abundant, though maybe not quite as expected. I give Concrete Cowboy 3.5 Gavels and it receives a 77% Rotten Tomatoes rating with a 6.2/10 IMDb score.
After the Detroit high school principal recommends expulsion, an exasperated Amahle has no choice but to drop Cole off at his father’s home in Philadelphia. Cole barely knows Harp and begs his mother to take him back. She drives off. Harp warns Cole that he must stay away from Smush, a childhood friend and now dealer. After staying out all night with Smush, Cole finds himself locked out with no place to stay except at the stables. The city boy is about to learn about the sh__ pit. Does Cole have what it takes to become a “horse whisperer?”
Idris Elba (Cats), whom many think could be the next 007, is a long way from his London beginnings. He fits in quite well, thank you. As the next-door neighbor and friend of Harp, Lorraine Toussaint (Girls Trip) plays Nessie. Like Harp, she expects Cole to follow the rules. If you are a fan of Stranger Things, you may be familiar with Caleb McLaughlin. As Cole, he is torn between the devil he knows (the street), and the promise of family.
“You’re a father to everyone but me. Horses got more love than me.” So says Cole to Harp. Without a father, Harp learned the lessons of the street the hard way. Will he be able to keep Cole alive? Concrete Cowboy, like life, ends with something of a question mark. If the City of Philadelphia gentrifies the neighborhood, where will they go? Harp knows “home ain’t a place, it’s a fam!” Still, you gotta’ rest your head somewhere.
“Your classic story about an irritable young man redeemed by an animal, and the embrace of a community. But it’s satisfying even so, largely because watching Elba is such a pleasure.” Time Magazine
“Concrete Cowboy finds fresh ways to update a classic coming-of-age story – not least because it’s set not on some bucolic farmland or dusty ranch but in the streets of North Philadelphia, which has nurtured Black equestrians for generations.” Entertainment Weekly
If you are looking for something different, albeit somewhat predictable, this is one of Netflix’ better stories.