Taking a wild turn from his usual roles, filled with action and suave sophistication, Idris Elba plays a Philadelphia man who’s an actual urban cowboy. That may sound strange, but it’s an uplifting movie based on the real Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club in Philly. For anyone who wants to see Elba and Stranger Things star Caleb McLaughlin in a grounded family drama far removed from the roles that made them famous, Concrete Cowboy is now available on Netflix.
Idris Elba and Caleb McLaughlin star in Concrete Cowboy, a family drama based on a real youth group streaming on Netflix.
Caleb McLaughlin, known for playing Lucas in Stranger Things, is Cole, a troubled young boy from Detroit sent to live with his estranged dad in Philadelphia. After reuniting with his dad, Harp (Idris Elba), Cole is stunned to find a horse in the living room. Frustrated over his new living situation, he tries to leave the very next day but gets help from Smush, his cousin, played by Emmy winner Jharrel Jerome.
Anyone who has ever seen a movie about an estranged family coming back together can guess the revelation that comes next, and yes, Smush is a drug dealer, and Harp refuses to let Cole hang out with him. Following another blowup, the pair end up bonding over the horses, and inspired by seeing the other riders, Cole decides he wants to learn how to ride. Idris Elba’s Harp insists that he start from the bottom and begins by shoveling out the stables.
Cole ends up bonding with Boo, a horse that doesn’t let anyone near him and starts to work his way into the group of riders. In doing so, he starts to think that Harp loves everyone else but his own son. In these moments, when Idris Elba and Caleb McLaughlin are sharing the scene together and bringing out the raw emotion of a father and son who love each other but have no idea how to explain it, it’s easy to see why critics had great things to say about Concrete Cowboy.
Caleb McLaughlin and Idris Elba do a fantastic job in Concrete Cowboy as an estranged father and son.
Just as things are looking up and Concrete Cowboy is settling into a warm and cozy groove, it takes a turn. Tragedy hits the small corner of downtown Philadelphia, and you don’t win anything for guessing what it involves. But don’t worry, neither Idris Elba nor any horses are killed.
It’s a testament to not only Caleb McLaughlin and Idris Elba but the rest of the award-winning cast, which includes Method Man (part of the Wu-Tang Clan), Lorraine Toussaint (known for Law & Order and Saving Grace), comedian Byron Bowers (MTV’s Guy Code and currently on The Chi), and the aforementioned Jharrel Jerome (Moonlight), that Concrete Cowboy can both embrace and surpass common feel-good movie cliches.
Impressively, considering the scope of Idris Elba’s career, Concrete Cowboy is one of his highest-rated films as the leading man. On Rotten Tomatoes, the movie has an 80 percent fresh rating., between American Gangster (Elba had a small part) and the drama Second Coming. Denied a theatrical run due to Covid, the film was delayed multiple times before finally being picked up and distributed by Netflix.
Concrete Cowboy was based on the book Ghetto Cowboy by Greg Neri, which in turn was inspired by an article in Life magazine about the Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club. Founded by Ellis Ferrell, a former bull rider, the organization maintains five horses in the heart of Philadelphia. Idris Elba’s character isn’t based on Ferrell directly, but they share the same love of horses, equestrian skills, and a desire to help the neighborhood youth through the care and maintenance of horses.
Impressively, considering the scope of Idris Elba’s career, Concrete Cowboy is one of his highest-rated films as the leading man.
Unlike Idris Elba, Caleb McLaughlin hasn’t been a major star for decades, but the rising star has been making a name for himself on Stranger Things. Thanks to Lucas’ relationship with Max (Sadie Sink), McLaughlin has had a lot to do in the last three seasons, but like the rest of the original stars, he’s been anxious to wrap up the series and enter the next phase of his career. As Concrete Cowboy shows, he has a future in film away from the small screen.
His accomplished co-star, Idris Elba, has shown no signs of slowing down for years. Next up for the British star is reprising the role of Knuckles the Echidna in Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and his own solo streaming series. After that, he’ll be part of Heads of State, an action comedy that reunites him with fellow The Suicide Squad star, John Cena.
In the meantime, Concrete Cowboy is available on Netflix.