Nothing warms my heart more than seeing a coming of age story bring a little-seen corner of American culture back into the spotlight.....and now imagine my disappointment when I say “Concrete Cowboy” doesn’t do much more than that; this story based on the Ghetto Cowboy novel and the real life urban African-American horseriding culture in Philadelphia honestly kept getting frustrating the more I looked back at it because I can see the potential it could’ve had, if it spent more of it’s time on what made these modern day cowboys so special.
More than a good chunk of what was presented in the structure within itself gave off a few signs too many of mismatched content: sure, most of the stuff you see in this movie does feel specially designed to be a part of the overarching narrative either to the protagonists development or to further broaden out the community as a whole but the stuff that doesn’t just feels flimsy to an extent. Again, this story has be redone, repackaged and re-skinned way too much to the point where I started getting pissed when they focused more on the troubling son learning important life lessons through hard work and tough love and an uninteresting drug business rather than the actual verticality behind this culture and the community they built. On top of an already slow movie being handicapped by subplots that murder the pacing, most of the story we end up getting doesn’t feel any different to what’s already been presented decades before despite three subversive moments.
On the flip side though, Caleb McLaughlins performance delved into the angry innocence of somebody who wants to be a part of would could’ve been an enthralling narrative and Idris Elba and Jharrel Jerome also play their roles well along with most of the cast. The admittedly shaken cinematography is at least presented possibly with simplistic, beautiful photography and rather impressive lighting with a sweet score from Kevin Matley on top of that. Even I have to admit despite my initial complaints on the generic troubled kid arc, they do go through the motions well enough for me to believe it and Ricky Staub’s directional debut is a fairly solid one, showing a remarkable commitment to a project that never lost his clear vision of the story he wanted to tell. And there was this one scene regarding the Fletcher Street Riders where they shine yet another light on the injustice in America today and how communities that are trying to do the right thing are screwed over by the system and I really really love it.
If they had done more stuff like that with the narrative, I would’ve held this in much higher graces. And believe me, I REALLY wanted to.