Netflix brings urban cowboy culture to light.

John Wayne. Roy Rogers. Honky-tonk country music. For decades, the term “cowboy” has been almost-universally associated with white people.

But as the characters point out in a pivotal scene of this movie, historic cowboys of the Wild West were often, if not usually, people of color. It is this commitment to contextualizing the true history of the American cowboy that inspires the real-life Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club, upon which this movie is based.

The film stars Idris Elba and Caleb McLaughlin of Stranger Things fame and is produced by Lee Daniels. McLaughlin plays a troubled teen named Cole who is sent to live with his father in an attempt by his mother to set him on the straight and narrow.

Concrete Cowboy Netflix

Cole learns that his father is deeply involved in the Urban Riding Club, and finds himself split between two worlds. The first being the urban cowboys his father rides with. The second being that of the fast-paced life his friend Smush (played by Jharrel Jerome) brings him along for. The latter which, of course, his mother wanted him to escape from in the first place.

Concrete Cowboy features fine performances from both Elba and McLaughlin. Despite the star power of Elba, this is definitely McLaughlin’s movie and will hopefully lead to more work for him as an actor in the future. The film’s haunting, Spaghetti Western-inspired score often distracts from, rather than enhances, the actor’s performances and feels like a missed opportunity.

Final Verdict

While this film provides a fascinating glimpse into an overlooked subculture, it is brought down by pacing issues that drag the film at times. That being said, while I feel like I’ve technically seen some variation of the story of a troubled teen getting set straight by horses on a farm at least three times, the setting for Concrete Cowboy helps things feel fresh.

The movie is worth a watch, if not for the learning opportunity, at least for the performances of its lead actors.

Where to watch: Netflix

Best for: Fans of Lee Daniels’ work, those with some degree of interest in urban cowboy culture

Shall I Stream It? Yes.


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