Idris Elba tries to bond with his estranged son.
Cole (Caleb McLaughlin) is a high schooler who keeps getting in trouble. His mother sends him from Detroit to Philadelphia to stay with his father, Harp (Idris Elba). When Harp brings Cole inside, Cole finds a horse in the living room. It turns out that Harp is a member of the Fletcher Street Riding Club, a group of equestrians located in urban North Philadelphia. Despite being estranged, Cole and Harp start to bond. However, the riding club is being attacked by the City of Philadelphia, who doesn’t like having people on horseback going through the streets. At the same time, Cole is questioning his involvement with his drug-dealing cousin Smush (Jharrel Jerome). Smush was himself a rider in the past, but now is selling narcotics in order to save up to move out West. Cole finds himself caught between Smush and Harp.
I’m going to skip my usual Idris Elba fanboying and just assume that by this point everyone knows that he’s an amazing actor who deserves any role that Hollywood needs filled. He’s a damned treasure. This is not his best role, but his natural charisma really helps sell his place as a cowboy living in the inner city in a modern era. The other performances in the movie, particularly Caleb McLaughlin, are also fantastic. McLaughlin has to balance out his character’s insecurities that lead to his troublemaking and rule breaking while also making him self-aware enough to eventually realize that’s why he does it.
Much of the film’s strength comes from exposing this little-known and definitely unexpected subculture. As the characters point out, most real-life cowboys were minorities, but the depiction of Westerns has essentially erased that. When the real members of the Fletcher Street Riding Club speak, they point out that no one believes them when they say that they manage horses in a primarily urban area, not just because of the lack of fields, but because they assume black people don’t ride horses. The more the film exposes the realities of trying to be a rider in a place like Philadelphia, the more you start to realize how impressive it is that this even exists and how hard the people involved have to fight to keep it. While that’s not the main emotional focus of the movie, it’s the part that’ll stick with you longer.
The downside to the movie is that it does tend to take its time on things. They even try to justify the slow pace at points, but it still tends to weigh down some parts of the film if you aren’t really into the plot. The performances can keep you engaged, but the pacing is just a little off. Maybe it should have been 90 minutes instead of almost two hours.
Overall, solid film, but some parts are best watched at 1.25 speed.
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