Movie Review: CONCRETE COWBOY (2020): A fascinating blend of aesthetics, drama and perspective in the service of the urban cowboy

Cowboy Concrete Critique

Concrete cowboy (2020) Film critic, a film made by Ricky staub, and featuring Idris elba, Caleb McLaughlin, Lorraine Toussaint, Jharrel Jerome, Clifford “Method Man” Smith, Byron bowers, Ivannah-Mercedes, Swen Temmel, Patrick mcdade, Michael ta’bon, Jamil Prattis, Jennifer butler, Liz Priestley, Kristoffe Brodeur, and Devenie Young.

Hollywood may sanctify cowboys to almost legendary status as relics of bygone eras, but what does that do with the real ones that still exist to this day? Living in big cities, however, and far from the John Wayne archetype. Will they also have their legendary status?


Concrete cowboy, Ricky Staub’s directorial debut, is not just a look at the lives of black urban cowboys, but an assurance that they exist in the first place as well as a defense of their stature in the modern world.

Cole (Caleb McLaughlin), an African-American teenager plagued by disciplinary problems and a growing list of deportations, is suddenly uprooted from his life in Detroit by his working-class mother (Liz Priestley), who is afraid of getting steer too far down a dangerous path. She rejects him in Philadelphia, their hometown, at the doorstep of his former father, Harp (Idris Elba), who looks at Cole with a cold shoulder. Things get all the more distant between them when Cole learns about Harp’s urban equestrian lifestyle – something that is more or less alien to a modern city kid like him – and Harp doesn’t feel like letting go. connecting with Cole outside of anything but hard work around the horse. stables. To make matters worse: there’s only beer and slices of cheese in the fridge, Cole has to share his room with an adult horse, and even neighbor Nessie (Lorraine Toussaint) doesn’t help (as she refuses to do). interfere with Harp’s parenting style).

Fortunately, an old playground also means old friends, and Cole soon reunites with his childhood best friend, Smush (Jharrel Jerome), who provides a much-needed respite from horse-heavy home life. But while Smush’s sense of camaraderie is more exciting than the campfire songs of the Horsemen of Harp and Fletcher Street, it comes with dangerous entanglements with the world of organized crime. Cole is then placed at a crossroads of character as he must decide whether to rehabilitate the relationship with his father or let it rot in favor of wealth.

The ultra-niche focus on a particular black subculture is both what makes Concrete cowboy unique and helps to strengthen its authenticity. Based on the 2011 young adult novel by Greg Neri Ghetto cowboy – which itself is a fictitious representation of Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club and bands like it – the film offers a peak into a world many of us probably didn’t know existed. And of course, this lack of representation is intentional as part of a decades-long, if not centuries-old, whitewashing attempt by the mass media to control the cultural narrative. Such a conflict is essential to the film’s central vanity, as Staub and co-writer Dan Walser may give it too directly credit (as during the fireside chat scene when Nessie talks about whitewashing in Hollywood. , and the other racers reaffirm to Cole that, contrary to popular belief, there have always been black cowboys and horse wrestlers). In this way, Concrete cowboyThe mere existence of life is a breath of fresh air that opposes the dominant conditioning regarding black city life, which most often tends towards monolithic interpretations.

The configuration also reminds Charme City Kings, a similar bildungsroman about black youth that seeks to mount subcultures as a means of belonging (although Concrete cowboy trade the power of ATVs for … well, literal power). Community leaders in both films also draw on these subcultures as methods to develop life skills and deter teens from engaging in criminal activity. kings Blax from Meek Mill teaches Jahi Di’Allo Winston responsibility through motorcycle maintenance, in Cowboy Harp, Nessie, and the other Fletcher Street Riders aim to teach Cole responsibility through grounds maintenance and animal care.

But just like kings, Cowboy suffers from the same flaws, primarily: a reluctance to fully tackle the socio-economic conditions that led to their main characters’ conflicts in the first place.

Cowboy attributes momentary addresses of these struggles with how they relate specifically to horsemen – the industrialization of transport making horsemen obsolete, the cooperation of city officials with land developers in ways that further stimulate gentrification – but he seems reluctant to address the issues that affect urban Philadelphia as a whole, and why such groups like the Fletcher Street Horsemen must exist as a deterrent to juvenile crime in the first place. Far be it from me, a white man, to lecture others on how to tell their stories of the black experience (although I believe Staub himself is white), but it seems strange that these films are not than a sort of preface to the criminal underworld as a concept decoupled from a long American tradition of systemic racism and other oppressive forces.

But Cowboy is still quite complex in its approach – mainly thanks to the role of Smush, whose brief history hints at the prevalence of shortcomings both at a broader societal level and a more specific, community level (and through which Jérôme plays it with a youthful intensity). It also throws in the thematic key of People in Place as a mantra, which simultaneously asserts while complicating itself regarding Cole and Harp’s rocky relationship. Elba and McLaughlin exude this conflict through scenes of both explosive anger and silent compulsion, and the film’s general sense of inner turmoil and courage echoed through the portable, sun-streaked visuals. It’s hard to deny yourself the pleasure of analyzing something that may not be as rich as it thinks it is, but still a fascinating blend of aesthetics and drama. And Kevin Matley’s vibrant score is an easy pill that makes the movie even smoother.

In short, Concrete cowboy is a unique perspective well told, even if its narrative constructions leave much to be desired.

Rating: 6/ten

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