Idris Elba (The Wire, Beasts of No Nation) will be appearing as Bloodsport in James Gunn’s comic book movie The Suicide Squad next year, but he’ll be headlining a far more low key project in 2021 as well. Concrete Cowboy, a family drama starring Elba and Caleb McLaughlin (Lucas from Stranger Things), made its debut on this year’s film festival circuit and has now been picked up by Netflix. The streamer will release the movie on its platform sometime in 2021.
Elba plays a rough-and-tumble Philadelphia cowboy, the estranged father to a troubled teen played by McLaughlin. The boy is sent to live with his old man and soon begins working at the nearby stables, reconnecting with a childhood friend (Moonlight‘s Jharrel Jerome) but ultimately being forced to make a decision about the type of person he wants to become.
/Film’s Chris Evangelista reviewed the movie from this year’s (virtual) Toronto International Film Festival, where he observed that the movie can sometimes feel predictable and occasionally rings false with an overwritten speech or two. But in the grand scheme of things, it works.
“And yet…Concrete Cowboy succeeds,” he wrote. “Sure, you know where a lot of this is going, but there’s powerful filmmaking on display here. Cinematographer Minka Farthing-Kohl often creates situations where scenes are deliberately underlit, swallowed up in murky shadows. And then there are the daytime scenes, tinged yellow by a burning sun, to the point where we can almost feel the heat radiating off the concrete. A scene where Cole attempts to stand atop a horse while the sun is setting – the sky awash in purples and pinks while all we see of Cole and the horse are their silhouettes – is just breathtaking.”
I was also happy to read that Chris really enjoyed the central performances, pointing out that “McLaughlin, so underused on Stranger Things, shows real acting chops here, playing Cole as someone struggling to throw the chip off his shoulder,” and praising Elba for “finally finding a great role to suit his talents that have been thus far somewhat wasted by Hollywood.”
Ricky Staub, who wrote the screenplay with Dan Walser, makes his feature directorial debut here. Elba and Walser produced the movie with Lee Daniels, Tucker Tooley, Jeff G. Waxman, and Jennifer Madeloff. Though no official release date has been locked in yet, Concrete Cowboy will make its debut on Netflix sometime in 2021.
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