“Concrete Cowboy” breaks whitewashed mold of Western movies

By: Rafihat Banjo, Columnist 

Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own. 

Netflix’s  “Concrete Cowboy” was released earlier this month, on April 2. This film was adapted from the novel “Ghetto Cowboy” by Greg Neri, and while fictional, it’s influenced by the Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club that is based in North Philadelphia.

The writers, Rick Staub and Dan Walser, did a phenomenal job along with Neri. The writers were able to touch on gentrification and whitewashing while amplifying Black voices. Additionally, I want to commend the producer’s Lee Daniels, Idris Elba, Jennifer Madeloff, Tucker Tooley, Dan Walser and Jeff G. Waxman. The film displays quality work while showcasing Black talent.

“Concrete Cowboy” follows a 15-year-old boy, Cole, who lives with his mother in Detroit. Cole is constantly rebelling and getting into trouble which leads him into getting expelled from his current school. Cole’s mother decides it’s best for him to go live with his cowboy father, Harp, in Philadelphia.

The film centers on Cole’s struggle between two worlds: drugs and crime or being a cowboy. Cole feels like he doesn’t fit in the cowboy world and feels as though Harp isn’t paying him enough attention.

Personally, I think “Concrete Cowboy” is a very inspiring film, yet it has a bittersweet ending. The film inspired me to learn the history of the Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club.The Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club has been around for over 100 years and plays a huge role in understanding the history of urban cowboys. The film also expresses the struggle of gentrification. 

“Concrete Cowboy” goes into depth about the realities Westerns face due to Hollywood whitewashing. In other films, Hollywood makes it seem like white people were the only ones who rode horses and were actively part of the American frontier, which is not true, at all.

The main characters were very well developed. In the beginning, Cole was seen as rebellious. Towards the end of the film, Cole was able to find himself and see life in a different light. 

Throughout the movie, he slowly starts to realize that life is too short, and he shouldn’t take things or people for granted. Additionally, Harp came a long way in the film. Harp went from being very stern towards Cole to being able to open up to Cole towards the end.

I was very pleased to see Caleb McLaughlin play a more mature role in “Concrete Cowboy,” compared to what we see on “Stranger Things.” Also, I really admire Daniels’ work. Daniels’ is the writer and producer of the well-known hit TV series “Empire” and “Star.” 

I like how the writers and producers were able to shed light on topics such as gentrification, drug dealing and whitewashing that most people don’t like touching on because they can be seen as controversial topics.

I rate this movie a solid 4.5/5 because I am a huge fan of the casting for “Concrete Cowboy.” Elba, McLaughlin, Jharrel Jerome, Bryon Bowers, Lorraine Toussaint and Method Man are very well-known and extraordinary actors in the industry.

However, I knocked off half a star because I wasn’t able to fully resonate due to the film not being super relatable. Still, I liked the POC representation shown in the film and how the film revolved around urban cowboys. I think it is captivating seeing Black people ride horses and there being a community like the Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club, where Black people can actively participate in horsemanship and continue the traditions of urban Westerns.

All in all, I really enjoyed this movie. I hope everyone can learn and take away something from this film. I think it is important to educate yourself on the history of urban Westerns and the Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club. 

“Concrete Cowboy” is a great movie to see and available on Netflix for streaming.

4.5/5

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