This past Friday, April 2, it came to Netflix ‘Asphalt Cowboy’, a film marked by the presence in its cast of Idris Elba and Caleb McLaughlin, a young actor quite popular for giving life to Lucas, one of the protagonists of the overwhelming ‘Stranger Things’. Despite those hooks, the tape directed by Ricky Staub, who also signs the script with Dan Walser, has not done much care with his landing on the popular streaming platform.
It is true that Netflix’s promotional effort to publicize the film has not been particularly high, something that is usually a sign that we are facing material that the company sees as one more content with which to expand its catalog. At the moment of truth I cannot say that it is a memorable work that deserves much more recognition, but ‘Asphalt Cowboy’ is an estimable proposal, much more in one of its aspects than in the other, which is worth taking a look.
Two movies in one
Arguably ‘Asphalt Cowboy’ are two movies for the price of one. On the one hand, the story of how a Detroit teenager is little less than forced by his mother to strengthen the relationship with his father, who also works as a cowboy in the city of Philadelphia, a kind of evolution of the cowboys of the old west. condemned to extinction sooner rather than later.
The first challenge the film faces is to the need to balance these two aspects, since the second could easily end up being little more than an exotic factor that allowed ‘Asphalt Cowboy’ to differentiate itself from other titles that explore how someone reconnects with one of their parents after a long time without contact. Luckily, Staub is also interested in addressing this other element, even going so far as to differentiate himself when putting it in images.
And it is that what I mentioned before being two films in one is present at all levels. Regarding the parent-child relationship, ‘Asphalt Cowboy’ would be one more, with a quite evident approach that is progressively closer to the characters played by Elba and McLaughlin. In the end, it is what these two actors manage to convey to you that makes the film have a certain interest in this way, since it does not differ too much from a current proposal seeking to excite the public with plot solutions that are already too well-worn to achieve the desired impact. .
What works best
In return, Staub is more inspired when the axis of ‘Asphalt Cowboy’ turns more towards that group of cowboys who live in a kind of reality apart, aware that the real world works against them but that they prefer focus on a fulfilling way of life rather than looking to the future. There is some conversation in which notes are even slipped about the gentrification tendency of some places that makes it clear that they simply have faith that nothing changes.
In addition, Staub then bet on changing his way of approaching the images, giving ‘Cowboy asphalt’ a finish closer to the documentary, as if he wanted to play something similar to what he did Chloe Zhao in ‘The Rider’. There the film achieves that strength that it lacks in the parent-child relationship through a clean look that flirts with the poetic through the everyday, serving as a step to vindicate the importance of African Americans in a world that cinema has tended to ignore.
All this without feeling like a sudden change when it comes to the staging or the careful photography of Minka Farthing-Kohl depending on what Staub is most interested in at any given time. In the end the problem is more in that the narrative axis of ‘Asphalt Cowboy’ feels conventional and with nothing in itself when developing it that transcends the obvious. This is something that is partly qualified by that other component, since to a certain extent it helps the character played by McLaughlin to see a reality very different from the one he knew, but in relation to the relationship between father and son, the film of Netflix never goes beyond the merely functional.
Said in clearer words, as a family drama, the predominant genre, ‘Asphalt Cowboy’ is not much, but it has something of interest, especially for its two protagonists, while as a modern western it is more stimulating in its almost documentary approach. to the images. Not enough to make it a must-have tape, but to feel like you’ve spent your time on a proposal with a certain entity.