Concrete Cowboy [Grade: C-]

Director: Ricky Staub

Story By: Gregory Neri

Cast: Caleb McLaughlin, Jharrel Jerome, Idris Elba, Method Man, Lorrain Toussaint, Byron Bowers, Jamil Prattis

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I can’t remember how I came across #ConcreteCowboy…maybe it was seeing the poster via my twitter, and I found myself intrigued by seeing these Black cis-men on horseback which is already imagery we aren’t used to seeing. Fortunately the imagery delivered, but the story as a whole is something that I found to be disappointing.

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Below are my grades for key components in #ConcreteCowboy that I find to be key in any story/film—Theme, Plot, Pacing, and Character Arc/Development. 

Additionally, I have added an entertainment factor scale to help you determine whether or not the film is something you’d be interested in taking time out of your weekend, evening, or day to watch. The scale range consists of: Worth the Watch, Interesting Enough (if looking for something new to start), & Don’t Rush.

I have also added a few non-spoiling thoughts, wonderings, and comments as I watched the film to help give some rationale for my grades and entertainment scale.

* * *

Theme: C

Plot: C-

Pacing: C

Character Arc/Development: C-

General Entertainment Factor: Don’t Rush

Film Enthusiast Entertainment Factor: Don’t Rush

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1. I want to start off with the general visual—seeing these Black folk on horseback was just beautiful. 

2. I also loved the documentary aspect to the story. I had no idea about this community in the city of Philadelphia. 

3. And to piggyback off of #3, the character Paris had a moment that wasn’t the best in terms of acting, and I immediately wondered if he was an actual member of the community. Lo and behold, he is. I appreciated this. 

4. Jharrel Jerome delivered another great performance as Smush! The moment he hit the screen, I smiled. 

5. Sooo…about the theme… a main theme that comes across is one around “community,” and I find this theme to be carried out pretty well through our main character Cole. However, the way the film started didn’t quite set the tone that “community” was this character’s goal or purpose. I think had there been more focus on the “troubled youth” aspect, and connected that to his relationship with “Boo,” that could’ve been a cohesive theme. 

6. A lot of the film was pretty predictable. I LITERALLY found myself on numerous occasions saying the next line from characters before they even said it. I even realized moments that were going to happen before they happened based on how the plot moved. 

7. Eh… Caleb McLaughlin as Cole… I mean, he was decent, but I wonder what he could’ve delivered has the writing been stronger. 

8. The plot was a little all over the place at times because it wasn’t clear what the focus was—is this about community? About Cole learning to control/face his anger? Coles relationship with his father? Him dabbling in this nightlife? What exactly was it. When focusing on the community and Cole living these 2 lives, there is a pretty decent follow through with the plot that picks up around the end of the rising action until the resolution. However, it doesn’t connect with the exposition at all, and pacing sort of hinders the clarity we need for the 2 lives Cole seems to be caught up in. 

9. And while on the topic of pacing, things moved a little too fast with the exposition and first half of the rising action. Especially once Smush became part of the picture, it was like “fudge” taking time to merge him in, just keep things moving. I would have loved for the story to slow down enough to give more context and breakdown to Cole, his trauma/struggles, and the Philadelphia he seems to not remember. 

10. To piggyback and emphasize point #1, there was a moment with a mother and son on a bus watching these Black cowboys, and I said to myself, “this should’ve been a PG-13 film with more intentionality.” 

11. I’m actually being a little generous with the character arc, so let’s just say this is actually a 69.95 (So C- or D). Because of the rushed start, and not so clear plot, Cole didn’t have an opportunity to really develop/arc. Yes, Caleb the actor had moments to showcase his ability to deliver “emotion,” but Cole the character didn’t have any real reasons in the story to experience a transformation of sort. It was a pretty positive character arc, but how we got there was random and bland. 

12. And was it just me, or did it seem like there were really deep messaging that missed the mark due to how it was housed in the plot. 

13. And where this love interest come from? 

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Overall, #ConcreteCowboy is Boys in the Hood-meets-Old Town Road-meets-Hardball. One one hand, it’s a “cute” film that could’ve been cuter had the rating been lowered with more intentionality, but then on the other hand…because of the rating, it’s an experimental misstep. It’s a good introduction to learning about this community of “cowboys” in Philly, but I do wish someone will do a better story that focuses on this community in the future. 

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