"Modern-Day, Inner-City Prodigal Son Tale"
What You Need To Know:
CONCRETE COWBOY tells a terrifically touching, powerful, well-made Prodigal Son tale. Superb performances and a unique setting make this tough coming-of-age tale a compelling movie. It has a strong, pro-family moral worldview with some positive, overt Christian content. Sadly, the movie contains more than 150 strong obscenities and strong profanities, which is too excessive. CONCRETE COWBOY also contains references to drug dealing, but negative consequences result from using and selling drugs.
CONCRETE COWBOY is a hard-as-nails coming-of-age tale about a black teenage boy forced to decide between a life of crime and a chance at redemption while spending a summer with his long-estranged father, who’s part of a group of men caring for horses in urban Philadelphia. Streaming on Netflix, CONCRETE COWBOY is a powerful, profoundly touching Prodigal Son story about the importance of fatherly love and personal redemption, with some positive Christian references, but it’s heavily marred by excessive, gratuitous foul language.
The movie follows the story of Cole (Caleb McLaughlin), a troublemaking black teenager in Detroit who’s about to be expelled from school and will likely wind up in prison. His desperate mother drives him in the middle of the night to Philadelphia and, against his wishes, unceremoniously dumps him on the doorstep of his long-absent father, Harp (Idris Elba).
Cole is immediately resentful of his situation and wary of trusting Harp since he hasn’t been in his life since he was a toddler. However, Harp has an unusual life, leading a group of black residents of their hardscrabble neighborhood in caring for some world-weary horses located in a rundown stable in the heart of the city.
As Cole is forced to learn responsibility by caring for a particularly troublesome horse named Boo, he’s also tempted to run the streets with a bad-influence friend named Smush (Jharrel Jerome). Harp gives Cole an ultimatum to drop Smush or lose his home, but torn between the two distinctly different life paths ahead of him, Cole finds it extremely hard to walk away from his friend.
CONCRETE COWBOY is amazingly the debut feature movie of Director/Co-writer Ricky Staub and Writer Dan Walser. Both gentlemen show a remarkable empathy for the world of its inner-city black protagonists, even though they are themselves white. It truly is a movie of immense heart and understanding of a subculture – inner-city blacks finding hope through caring for horses – that exists in real life both in Philly and in the Los Angeles suburb of Compton.
The movie makes a strong, direct reference to the biblical tale of the Prodigal Son. Another key scene features a powerfully rendered gospel musical number in a church setting. McLaughlin and Jerome offer up incredibly strong performances, with Jerome particularly impressive because he has to be dangerously charismatic and yet reveal a deeply wounded heart that drives his ill-considered criminal actions.
Elba is really a supporting actor here to McLaughlin, but the veteran British actor cuts an impressive figure as Harp, especially in a confessional scene where he reveals his painful past to Cole as he strives to bond with his son. Add in some outstanding, visceral cinematography in a couple of surprise fight and chase scenes and a perfect musical score throughout, and you have a riveting movie that’s pretty involving. CONCRETE COWBOY is much too heavily marred, however, by excessive, gratuitous obscenities and profanities.