Concrete Cowboy Drama

Urban Meets Western: A TIFF Review of ‘Concrete Cowboy’

September 15, 2020Ben MK

For many, the term cowboy evokes images of men riding on horseback through wide open plains, rounding up a few cattle along the way. What you might not imagine, however, is a cowboy who calls the inner city home. Yet, that's exactly what we get in Concrete Cowboy, a father-son relationship drama set against the backdrop of Philadelphia's real-life black urban cowboy community.

Based on Gregory Neri's 2011 novel "Ghetto Cowboy," the film follows Cole (Caleb McLaughlin), a troubled Detroit teenager sent to live with his estranged father, Harp (Idris Elba), in Philadelphia. Discovering that Harp keeps a horse in his living room and spends his days at the nearby Fletcher Street stables, Cole is introduced to a world he never knew existed — one rooted in the long-standing and often forgotten tradition of African American cowboys. But when he reconnects with a former childhood friend (Jharrel Jerome) who gets him caught up in a violent drug turf war, Cole must make a crucial decision — is he ready to embrace that new world in an attempt to try to turn his life around, or will he continue down his current path and risk becoming just another crime statistic?

A cautionary coming-of-age tale, director Ricky Staub's debut feature is an engaging story about the choices we make in life and how the people we let into our lives help shape who we are. More importantly, though, it's a fascinating look at a little-known aspect of American culture and why it should be preserved.

Concrete Cowboy screens under the Gala Presentations and TIFF Next Wave programmes at the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival. Its runtime is 1 hr. 51 min.

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