Idris Elba

Idris Elba, a “Concrete Cowboy” in Philadelphia


Netflix’s Concrete Cowboy starring Idris Elba, is a Philadelphia story, based on Greg Neri’s novel “Ghetto Cowboy” debuts in April.

On Friday, April 2, the long-anticipated Idris Elba Netflix flick, Concrete Cowboy, will make its debut. Co-scripted and directed by Brewerytown’s Neighborhood Films’ Ricky Staub with writer Dan Walser (based on author Greg Neri’s novel Ghetto Cowboy), and Southwest Philly-raised producer Lee Daniels, the new movie focuses on the phenomenon of the legendary Black cowboys of North Philadelphia around Strawberry Mansion. Filmed in the exact place where the surprisingly sensitive story’s script unfolded in the first place.

The tale of the urban cowboy, as portrayed by Elba with a decent Philly accent, to boot, focuses on creating and maintaining familial healing bonds with the teen son he barely knew (played by actor Caleb McLaughlin, from Netflix’s Stranger Things), the community of which he is a part, and the stable that all of its members take pride in. Concrete Cowboy’s cinema verite style and loos improvisational vibe, combined with a great number of Philadelphia actors and the area’s very own Black cowboys, allows the Netflix drama to blossom forth more like a playful documentary, a day in the life, as opposed to something scripted.

idris elba

The funniest thing, for this writer, to consider when watching Concrete Cowboy, even going back as far as to when I heard that the film was being made in North Philly, is that I know well the whole Black Cowboy experience. Growing up as I did in SouthWest Philadelphia, not far from Bartram Gardens, I can attest to almost daily and nightly sightings of Black men and children on handsome saddled horses strolling the blocks of Elmwood and Woodland Avenues. Along with a Wheels of Soul clubhouse in the same neighborhood as the Oops Bunny Lounge, there was a small stable where several families (or one family, I never knew) kept and cared for their horses, and took them out for a stroll on nice weather days.

Forever I wanted to write or film something on these horse riders. It always seemed so unique and lovely. Save for actor Woody Strode, usually used solely in supporting roles, (and Morgan Freeman in Unforgiven), audiences Black and White were never treated to the “Black Cowboy” experience in traditional films. Certainly not the sundown vistas and dusty plains of Westerns filmed by John Ford and Howard Hawks with John Wayne and Henry Fonda.

Idris elba

Shame on me for never penning the stories that I saw unfold Easy gentle portraits of what seemed like an idyllic existence. But, good for the Neighborhood Films crew, Lee Daniels, and mostly, Idris Elba. They brought back a happy memory for me with Concrete Cowboy.

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