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Film Review


Charlie reviews Netflix’s CONCRETE COWBOY praising the film’s “remarkable” cinematography and “charismatic” leads.



Concrete Cowboy (Netflix)


While spending the summer in North Philadelphia, a troubled teen is caught between a life of crime and his estranged father’s vibrant urban-cowboy subculture.


After having a successful premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) last year, the brand new movie starring Stranger Things Caleb McLaughlin and Idris Elba (Thor: Ragnarok and Luther) has now been acquired by the streaming service giant, Netflix. The film is finally releasing globally on the service on April 2nd, is it worth your time? Read on to hear my full thoughts.

The plot for the film is very interesting. Concrete Cowboy tells the story of Cole (Caleb McLaughlin), a rebellious teen who is sent to live with his estranged father (played by Idris Elba). But upon his arrival, he discovers the world of urban horseback riding and a tight-knit community of black cowboys.  

Firstly, you are probably watching this film for the two very charismatic leads and they are both great! Idris Elba perfectly plays this father figure for his son, Cole, and the way the two play off each other is one of the highlights within the film. Caleb McLaughlin is also very charming as the son of an urban cowboy. Each actor delivers a great performance the film’s runtime. McLaughlin’s character really is the standout though; he is the heart and soul of the film and the way his character differs from the beginning to the end will definitely be an arc that many people will connect with. 

The cinematography is also remarkable. The entire film is filled with colour and the streets of Philadelphia look better than ever in Concrete Cowboy. Minka Farthing-Kohl makes the entire movie look absolutely beautiful and even during some of the slower sequences, the staggering cinematography kept my eyes locked to my television.  

However, Concrete Cowboy is an extremely dull film. It’s one hundred and eleven minute runtime felt closer to four hours than two because I could not get invested in the story. Elba and McLaughlin deliver splendid performances but for the entire film, they felt very emotionally distant and when their characters finally unravel, it felt very underwhelming because the story did not feel like it had earned the emotional payoff that it was displaying. 

The film takes a very slow approach and while it shines light on a culture we never see in westerns on screen, I could not feel any emotional attachment to any of the characters. The film dragged from beginning to end and throughout its 1hr 51m length, I was unfortunately longing for it to end which is not something I wanted. This may just be a case of a movie not aimed for me, yet I just could never gravitate towards the story. 

The characters also felt at arm’s length for the entire runtime. This wasn’t just Idris Elba or Caleb McLaughlin but the supporting cast didn’t feel like they had much to work with either. I loved that we are finally getting to urban horseback riders finally being front and centre yet no one really stood out within its very strong cast. 


Overall, Concrete Cowboy is a huge disappointment, personally. The cinematography is breathtaking and the two lead performances are great yet its overly long runtime and dull story really pulled me out of the film and never grabbed my attention. I really wanted to like it but I could never enjoy the film as some who attended TIFF last year.

Concrete Cowboy hits Netflix on April 2, 2021.

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