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Movie Review: “Concrete Cowboy”

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

Netflix Release: 4/2/2021

Netflix Release: 4/2/2021

Synopsis

Cole (Caleb McLaughlin) has gotten himself into trouble once again. His mom (Liz Priestley) is tired of his behavior, and she has decided to take Cole to stay with his father in Philly for awhile. The only problem is that Cole does not like his father, Harp (Idris Elba). Harp is one of the few cowboys left in Philly. Many believe cowboys have long since disappeared, especially in a city like Philly, but there are still some left, and Harp is among the last of them.

Developers have taken over almost all of the stables in Philly, and they have used the land to put up apartments, Starbucks, and various other structures of modern city life. The Fletcher Street stable is the last one remaining, and the remaining cowboys have gathered there, where they have become known as the Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club. They take care of their horses, they have formed a family of sorts, and most importantly, they ride. If Cole is to stay with Harp, he will have to live by Harp's strict set of rules, but they are rules that keep young kids off the streets and out of harms way. However, Cole is being pulled to the streets by an old friend named Smush (Jharrel Jerome). Cole does not like the lifestyle his father is offering him, but if he chooses his friend, he may find himself in far greater trouble than he has ever been in before.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.

The ProsThe Cons

Harp, Smush, and Cole (+6pts)

Slow & Taming Boo (-4pts)

Cowboys in Philly (+6pts)

The Last Stable (-4pts)

Leroy (+3pts)

The Climax (-4pts)

movie-review-concrete-cowboy

Pro: Harp, Smush, and Cole (+6pts)

I liked these three characters and how their stories were intertwined with one another. Harp was among the last of the cowboys in Philly. He had no tolerance for the lifestyle of the street, and he treated his son like a young man as opposed to a child. He was a cool character with a strong moral compass, which was a far cry from the character Smush. Smush was a young man making a living and a career on the streets. He had sketchy clients, and a dangerous employer, but he made a lot of money and he had the freedom that Cole wanted. Harp had a community, he had respect, and he had a strong moral compass, but he had little to no money, and following him would require self-discipline. Smush had money, and freedom, but he had no one he could trust.

Cole was very much being pulled in both directions. On one side was his father Harp, who wanted to use the stables to steer his son away from a life of trouble. On the other side was his friend Smush, who wanted a partner he could trust, and who wanted to get Cole in on the success he was experiencing. Cole was very much caught in the middle of these two characters. I really felt that part of him liked the horses and the sense of community at the stables, but I felt that the other part of him liked the money, and the rebellious freedom that Smush was offering him. Cole was very much at a crossroads, and it made the story between these three characters really interesting.

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Con: Slow & Taming Boo (-4pts)

As much as I liked the main characters, this movie still felt pretty slow. It was just a dialogue heavy movie, and while that resulted in strong characters, it also resulted in not a whole lot actually going on. Then, on a completely unrelated note, there was the "wild" horse named Boo. It is such a common western trope to have a supposedly "untame-able" horse, that the main character has some weird, unexplained connection with. So many filmmakers have done this in so many movies, it has even found its way into the sci-fi genre with movies like Avatar. It is basically the filmmakers’ way of making the main character seem special, but the trope is so over-done that it honestly takes me out of the movie whenever filmmakers do it. Unfortunately, the filmmakers of this movie did exactly that with the wild horse named Boo and his ambiguously strong connection with Cole.

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Pro: Cowboys in Philly (+6pts)

I was really interested by the Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club. I had never heard of them before, but I was fascinated by the fact that there was essentially a group of cowboys riding around and living in modern day Philly. There had been many stables just like it across Philly, but all had been shut down by developers, one way or another. The Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club was the last of these groups, and it made their story and lifestyle so much more interesting to explore. Their lives were centered around their sense of community, and their love for horses, as well as their discipline and their passion for riding. Their lifestyle was not glamorous, but they had each other, and their lifestyle kept them around what they loved—horses—it kept them around like-minded individuals, it maintained their free spirited philosophy, and it kept the younger members out of trouble. They were an interesting group of characters, who were made even more interesting by the fact that this group really existed, and I enjoyed every bit of screentime that was spent following this group of characters—which was most of the movie.

movie-review-concrete-cowboy

Con: The Last Stable (-4pts)

I liked the idea that the Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club was essentially the last of a breed of cowboys in Philly, but I did not like how little this played into the story. The filmmakers could have made this group feel really important to the audience if they had properly conveyed that this was essentially the group’s last stand before going extinct from Philly. This was their home, and they were being squeezed out of it one stable at a time. The characters definitely talked about this throughout the movie, but I did not feel the last stand vibe that this story should have had. I also did not feel like these characters were willing to do anything it took to hold onto their last stable in Philly.

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Pro: Leroy (+3pts)

Leroy (Method Man) was a pretty interesting character. He was once a member of the the Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club, and he was now a cop who was still very much a rider at heart. His spirit was still with the cowboys, but he traded in his saddle for a badge, and he served the city of Philly. He was an interesting character because he felt like a hybrid—part of him was a modern cop, while the other was still a cowboy. He was very much a modern day cowboy, and his mission was to use his role and resources to help the Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club hold onto what little they had left. This all made the character cool, complex, and interesting, and my only complaint was that the filmmakers did not give us more of him.

movie-review-concrete-cowboy

Con: The Climax (-4pts)

My problem with the climax of this movie was that there really did not seem like there was one. This movie had all the makings of a modern day western, and the format of many great westerns is a slow burn of a rising action, with a big climax, and then the heroes ride off into the sunset in the falling action, but that was not what this movie was. It was definitely a slow burn, but instead of a shootout, the climax of this movie was really just a single shot, which meant the climax was over almost as soon as it began. It was definitely a let down, because after the slow burn that was the rising action, I was hoping for a satisfying, exciting climax, but that never came.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

movie-review-concrete-cowboy

Grade: C+ (78pts)

I saw the trailer for this movie and my interest peaked almost instantly. It was a modern day western about a group of cowboys in Philly, and it starred Idris Elba and one of the kids from Stranger Things—Caleb McLaughlin. I thought everything with the Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club was really interesting, but I thought the filmmakers should have focused a bit more on the last stand vibe to their story. I also thought the overall story was pretty slow, I thought the whole taming of Boo thing was pretty typical, and I was disappointed by the relatively nonexistent climax. Fortunately, the filmmakers got their characters right.

First, there was Leroy, who was a cop and former member of the Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club. This made him an interesting character, because he was one who very much had his feet in both doors, but the filmmakers did not give him a whole lot of focus. The ones they focused on the most were Harp, Smush, and Cole. These characters and their stories were intertwined with each other in an interesting way. Harp was Cole’s father who wanted Cole to live a disciplined lifestyle taking care of and riding horses, Smush was Cole’s friend who lived the life of a street dealer and wanted to get Cole in on his success, and Cole was a troubled kid stuck between the two. This movie had its problems, but its characters were pretty interesting, and that was enough to keep me going.

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