Concrete Cowboy ending explained: Cole’s journey

‘Concrete Cowboy’ on Netflix is based on the novel Ghetto Cowboy by G. Neri. The narrative revolves around a community of Black horse-riders who struggle to keep their cowboy legacy alive in the face of corporatization and gentrification.

Angry young teenager Cole (Caleb McLaughlin) is expelled from school for getting into a brawl. His mother drops him off in Philadelphia at the doors of his father Harp (Idris Elba), from whom they have long separated. While Cole resists the lifestyle initially, he takes to accepting it and working at the stable to assist his father.

Cole meets his childhood friend Smush (Jharrel Jerome), who seems to be involved in illegal activities. While Smush helps Cole and gifts him brand new shoes, Harp warn Cole that if he is seen around Smush, he won’t be allowed to his house.

With the pressures of a whole new lifestyle with cowboys on one hand and his willingness to join his friend Smush on the other, Cole is faced with multiple dilemmas. Does Cole survive and thrive at the stable or does he succumb to a life of crime with Smush?

‘Concrete Cowboy’ ending explained in detail:

Cole adapts to his father and the lifestyle

Cole spends some nights at his fathers shack and participated in cowboy conversations about Black history and the art of taming horses. However, he finds it terribly difficult to adapt to new work like cleaning horse faeces and tackling wild horses.

He sees that he is hardly given any help from his father. He sets off to leave and join Smush. Harp sees him and holds him back. He explains how much he always loved Cole and regrets how he failed to be present during his birth because he was arrested.

He also recounts that after his mother and he separated, Harp requested her to allow him to name his child. Cole’s full name (Coltrane) was given by Harp. Harp tells Cole that he has got his back no matter what.

Meanwhile, Cole has been befriended by other members of the community. He achieves mastery over horse-taming by managing to tame Boo, the wildest horse in the lot.

Smush is gone forever

Cole goes on a car ride with Smush without the knowledge of his father. A police trifle takes place and Smush is shot dead. Brokenhearted, Cole goes away without informing anyone.

Harp is told about the incident and that it is his duty to find the disheartened Cole. Harp goes on a search and finally finds him. Seeing his son cry, Harp validates him saying: “Smush was one of us.”

He explains that he himself led Smush’s lifestyle and lost everything from a family to his wealth because of it. Cole is convinced to return to the stable and take the legacy forward.

Stables are extorted but the legacy lives on

The cowboys have been long discarded by the persistent economic system, which has replaced horses with trucks. While a few cowboys from across the country live as a community in Philadelphia, their stables are regularly raided and illegalised on false charges

Harp’s stable too gets extorted, the given reason being “malnourishment” and all the horses are taken away to a centre. Cole is disillusioned with the community, as he feels that they do not have the courage to change their fate.

Finally, when Harp finds Cole, he plans to break into the center where their horses have been detained. They break in at night evading the security cameras. The cop on duty being a friend of Harp, lets him escape and tells him to be in hiding for a while.

The after-credit sequence shows real footages of interviews with the horse-riders that the movie is based on. They recount their struggles and assert that this life gives them purpose and meaning, and takes them on the right track.

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