Today we are in a hurry to move forward but if we carefully notice we are reaching nowhere in spite of that haste. With all this industrialization and modernization, we are racing towards development, but we don’t know why. Early cavemen invented fire and sat around it with people to narrate the tale of their endeavor. Today, we are just inventing, inventing, and inventing some more but totally missing out on the part where we share our stories. We are too busy taking pride in our own accomplishments. Concrete Cowboy explores a similar theme. It explores that in the modern era, when all the history is turning into bricks and mortar, we should not let that history be erased from our memories, from our souls, and from our consciousness.
Concrete Cowboy is based on the novel Ghetto Cowboy written by Greg Neri. The book itself is a fictionalized piece revolving around members of Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club, an African-American group in Philadelphia known for Urban horse riding. It stars the extremely talented and impacting Idris Elba as the father of a conflicted child who comes to visit him and that’s how the story unfolds.
‘Concrete Cowboy’ Summary
Cole, a fifteen-year-old teenager lives with his mother in Detroit. An absent father has made Cole, a wild kid involved in a violent fight at school. To control Cole’s angst, her mother sends him to live with his estranged father, Harp (Idris Elba).
When Cole arrives in Philadelphia, he is bewildered to find a horse inside his father’s rented house. The house is relatively small, untidy, smelly, and without food. The equation between the father and the son starts off roughly, and Cole already hates his father for leaving him and his mother after his birth.
Living in the urban cowboy neighborhood, Cole gets familiar with stables and horses, which also serves as the only source of income for his father and others in the Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club. It is a dying business though, and they are starving, yet they all cherish their legacy and stay happy. Cole gets involved with a drug dealer named Smush (Jharrel Jerome) and Harp throws Cole out of the house. On that night, Cole sneaks into Nessie’s stable where he befriends a horse named Boo. Boo is a violent horse like Cole and their unlikely friendship transforms Cole’s perspective of life.
Cole demands to ride a horse and Harp puts a condition that in order to ride, he first needs to work in the stables. And there it begins Cole’s journey to learn the law and living of the Cowboy life. A life that channelizes his anger and teaches him some great life lessons.
“A horse wasn’t meant to be dominated. A horse is meant to be free. The only way you can realize it’s the true spirit, its true nature, is through love.”
Major Spoilers Ahead
‘Concrete Cowboy’ Ending Explained
The Fletcher community had been staying on rented houses. In the neighborhood, people are complaining about the stable smells and developers are also keen on demolishing the houses and establishing concrete jungles in the name of development. However, the Fletcher community neglected their warning and refused to leave.
To fuel their plan of action, the contractors send the Peninsula Animal control department to analyze the health of horses of the Fletcher community. In their raid, they find a dead horse in the backyard who is rotting away. They get their reasons to take away all the horses in the name of nourishment check-up. Harp and others are helpless.
Inspired by Cole’s angst, Harp decides to steal the horse from a police stable and they accomplish their mission. Though, when they ride back to their houses, they find construction vehicles demolishing their houses. Cole and others provoke Harp to teach them a lesson but Harp decides to ride away. In a heart-melting speech, he delivers his message.
“All the places you talk about right here, all them places, long gone. They’re all bricks and beams right now, but you still here, ain’t you? Let them take the stable because they can’t take who we are as a… as a people. Home ain’t a place, it’s a fam. That’s what makes us Cowboys.”
The Fletcher community is still searching for a permanent stable to preserve their heritage.
There are certain films, certain important films that you can’t really review. No matter what they are, what basic technique they miss, they are spreading a message which needs to be told. Concrete Cowboy is that piece of art and fortunately, it’s moving. The original bytes of Fletcher riders make your eyes moist. It’s a horror to see what destruction we have caused in the name of development. Without our heritage and our culture, we are nothing. Just operating bodies with no soul.
Idris Elba has done a commendable job. The father-son narrative keeps you hooked throughout. Through Cole, we try to understand Harp’s past and how he is trying to protect his son from repeating the same. He is not the greatest father because, for him, his community and his culture mattered more than his own kid and family. In the film, Harp is trying to convey the reason why. Why he is ardent to preserve things because without his efforts they’ll vanish and it’s a loss he can’t afford. He loves his kid but he loves the horses and cowboys as well. Harp’s character, though, not explored in deep, shines bright.
Concrete Cowboy is really an important film that tries to educate you about a community trying to preserve its heritage. Director Ricky Staub did his part by delivering us such a marvelous film, and we should do our part of the job by watching it and keeping the Cowboy heritage alive.
Concrete Cowboy is a 2021 Drama Film streaming on Netflix.
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