Concrete Cowboy

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Concrete Cowboy
Concrete cowboy.jpg
Official promotional poster
Directed byRicky Staub
Produced by
Screenplay by
  • Ricky Staub
  • Dan Walser
Based onGhetto Cowboy
by Greg Neri
Music byKevin Matley
CinematographyMinka Farthing-Kohl
Edited byLuke Ciarrocchi
  • Tucker Tooley Entertainment
  • Green Door Pictures
  • Lee Daniels Entertainment
  • Neighborhood Film Co.
Distributed byNetflix
Release date
  • September 13, 2020 (2020-09-13) (TIFF)
  • April 2, 2021 (2021-04-02) (United States)
Running time
111 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget~$10 million[2]

Concrete Cowboy is a 2020 American Western drama film directed by Ricky Staub from a screenplay by Staub and Dan Walser. The movie is based on the novel Ghetto Cowboy by Greg Neri, which was inspired by the real urban African-American horseriding culture of Philadelphia, and in particular, the Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club.[3][4] The film stars Idris Elba, Caleb McLaughlin, Jharrel Jerome, Byron Bowers, Lorraine Toussaint and Clifford "Method Man" Smith. While the film is completely fictional, several real members of the Fletcher Street riding community play supporting characters who give voice to real issues that the community faces.[5]

Concrete Cowboy had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 13, 2020, and was digitally released on Netflix on April 2, 2021.[6]


15-year-old Cole is from Detroit and always getting in trouble at school, so his mom drives him to Philadelphia to live with his estranged father, Harp. Dropping him off on Harp's North Philadelphia block, she quickly drives away. A neighbor recognizes Cole, and tells him he is at the stables.

When Harp brings him in the house, Cole finds a horse standing in the living room and the fridge and cupboards empty. He says he'll only stay one night. The next day when trying to call his mom, he runs into his older cousin Smush, who drives him around and gets him some food. When Cole is dropped off at Harps the next morning, he won't let Cole in as he's been hanging out with Smush, a drug dealer. So, he sleeps in a stall at the stables.

In the morning he tells the other riders he wants to learn how to ride, and is told he first must help with the stable work. He spends the day shoveling manure, and learns the stall he'd slept in the night before was with a horse named Boo, which no one has been able to tame. Continuing to spend time at the stables and secretly with Smush as well. Harp has a surprise for Paris, the rider who uses a wheelchair. a saddle that allows Paris to ride his horse.

Cole gets upset and heads back to Harp's. Harp finds him there, and they get into an argument: Cole feels that Harp gives love to everyone except him. Harp tells him he also used to deal, and went to prison before Cole was born. Cole is named after jazz musician John Coltrane, fellow Philadelphan who had grown up without a father, because he wanted his son to be able to succeed as well.

Smush used to be a rider, too, but began dealing drugs to save up money to buy a ranch out West. One night Boo gets loose and the riders find him in a field. Surrounding him, and Harp tells Cole he's the only one who can calm Boo. Cole hesitantly approaches and is able to throw the reins over Boo and mount him.

Smush and Cole set up a drug deal that goes bad, and another dealer tries to kidnap Smush. The cops appear, chasing Smush and Cole, but they escape. Smush says they almost have enough money to move West, but Cole says he is done with that life. At the stables, Animal Control has arrived to seize all the horses due to neighbor complaints. Harp says there's nothing they can do, and Cole calls him a coward. Cole finds Smush, and they go on another drug deal. Smush gets shot, and Cole runs.

Harp searches for Cole, eventually finding him hiding in the stables. Washing the blood off Cole's hands, he tells him Smush needs a proper memorial. That night they break into the municipal stables and free the horses. Everyone rides their horses slowly through the neighborhood to the cemetery, where Cole places Smush's cowboy boots on his grave, then stands on the back of his horse for the first time.

Not long afterward, they all watch as the stables are demolished, but Harp says they will keep riding even without their stables. Cole's mom returns to Philadelphia, and Harp thanks her for sending Cole to live with him.



In August 2019, it was announced that Idris Elba, Caleb McLaughlin, Jharrel Jerome, Lorraine Toussaint, Byron Bowers and Method Man had joined the cast of the film, with Ricky Staub directing in his feature film directorial debut from a screenplay by himself and Dan Wasler based upon the novel Ghetto Cowboy by Greg Neri. Elba and Lee Daniels served as producers on the film.[7][8][9] The role of Amahle was originally written to be a drug addict, and when Liz Priestley auditioned for the role she built up a few days of sleep deprivation to make her performance believable. The character was later rewritten to be a nurse.[10]

Filming began in North Philadelphia in August 2019.[11] Staub originally got the idea for the film after seeing a man riding a horse down a Philadelphia street, which led him to research the Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club and the discovery of Neri's book.[12]


The film was set to have its world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival in September 2020, prior to its cancellation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[13] Its world premiere was then held at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 13, 2020.[14] In October 2020, Netflix acquired distribution rights to the film for a release in 2021.[15] In March 2021, it was announced that the film will be released on April 2, 2021.


On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 80% based on 116 reviews, with an average rating of 6.5/10. The website's critics consensus reads: "Well-acted and solidly directed, Concrete Cowboy lassos old-fashioned uplift with its story of a father and son in a little-seen corner of American culture."[16] On Metacritic, it has a weighted average score of 67 out of 100, based on 33 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[17]


  1. ^ "Concrete Cowboy". Toronto International Film Festival. Archived from the original on August 31, 2020. Retrieved July 30, 2020.
  2. ^ "Films Hit Festivals Trying to Create Buzz Without a Crowd". New York Times. September 12, 2020. Archived from the original on January 28, 2021. Retrieved April 2, 2021.
  3. ^ Gray, Ellen. "As Netflix's 'Concrete Cowboy' premieres, two Philly riding groups could benefit". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 2021-05-03.
  4. ^ Tanenbaum, Michael (April 2, 2021). "As 'Concrete Cowboy' hits Netflix, GoFundMe campaigns seek support for Philly horseback riders". PhillyVoice. Retrieved 2021-05-03.
  5. ^ Smith, Talia (2021-04-05). "Real-Life Urban Cowboys Are Standing Up to Gentrification". Harper's BAZAAR. Retrieved 2021-05-03.
  6. ^ "Netflix's 'Concrete Cowboy' Sets April 2021 Release Date". What's on Netflix. March 5, 2021. Archived from the original on April 2, 2021. Retrieved April 2, 2021.
  7. ^ Kroll, Justin (August 9, 2018). "Idris Elba Sets 'Ghetto Cowboy' as Next Film". Variety. Archived from the original on August 13, 2019. Retrieved August 13, 2019.
  8. ^ Fleming Jr, Mike (August 8, 2019). "Idris Elba, Stranger Things' 'Caleb McLaughlin To Star In 'Concrete Cowboys'". Deadline. Archived from the original on August 15, 2019. Retrieved August 13, 2019.
  9. ^ Ramos, Dino-Ray (August 23, 2019). "Method Man Joins 'Waldo' and Action-Thriller 'Concrete Cowboys'". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on August 28, 2019. Retrieved August 28, 2019.
  10. ^ Harden, Brandon (September 15, 2020). "Hollywood is talking about this film shot in Philly last summer". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Archived from the original on September 16, 2020. Retrieved September 16, 2020.
  11. ^ Vadala, Nick (August 9, 2019). "Idris Elba spotted training for new movie, 'Concrete Cowboys,' in Strawberry Mansion". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Archived from the original on August 13, 2019. Retrieved August 13, 2019.
  12. ^ Fiorillo, Victor (August 9, 2019). "Check Out These Photos of Idris Elba Riding a Horse in Philly". Philadelphia Magazine. Archived from the original on April 2, 2021. Retrieved August 13, 2019.
  13. ^ Keegan, Rebecca (August 3, 2020). "Inside the Telluride Film Festival That Would Have Been". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on August 5, 2020. Retrieved August 3, 2020.
  14. ^ Wiseman, Andreas (June 24, 2020). "Toronto Film Festival Reveals Plan For Slimline 2020 Edition With Mix Of Physical & Digital Screenings; Kate Winslet, Idris Elba & Mark Wahlberg Movies Among First Wave". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on July 1, 2020. Retrieved June 30, 2020.
  15. ^ Kit, Borys (October 26, 2020). "Netflix Picks Up Idris Elba Drama 'Concrete Cowboy' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on October 27, 2020. Retrieved October 26, 2020.
  16. ^ "Concrete Cowboy (2020)". Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on March 16, 2021. Retrieved April 9, 2021.
  17. ^ "Concrete Cowboy Reviews". Metacritic. Archived from the original on March 24, 2021. Retrieved April 9, 2021.

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