Cowboy & Indiana
Demons come in many forms. For Tulsa, a former World Champion Bull Rider, they take the shape of addiction, defeat and the death of his closest friend. With his best bull riding days behind him, he’s trying to keep his fragile world together. His fragile world quickly becomes apparent as death comes knocking at Tulsa’s door in the form of a bull named “Gang Banger” – a bull that no man has ever been able to ride and that claimed the life of his friend. In a final attempt to put his life back together and seek revenge, Tulsa agrees to take his own shot at Gang Banger. Tulsa risks it all as his new-found hope begins to dawn in his shattered life.
Cowboy & Indiana is about a lot of things. It begins with a focus on Tulsa (Taylor Girard) a distraught, world-class bull rider who has suffered the death of his young son and is coping by secretly abusing alcohol and drugs. He is ordered by a judge to mentor a young boy named Indiana (Evan Mules Horsley) from a single-parent home, who is struggling with the loss of his father. Tulsa is initially resistant to this idea but has no say in the matter; the young boy needs a father figure. Only the audience knows that Tulsa may not be the best choice due to his addictions, but we sympathize with him from the get-go. Indiana’s mother is protective and reluctant to embrace the boy’s newly returned father, Marcus (Lunn Andrews III) who also rides bulls and has been recently released from prison. Marcus has embraced Christianity and is determined to begin a life of substance by reconnecting with his son and proving his worth.
This movie is quite long; however, the characters and storyline are compelling. The strength of the acting by everyone is subtle but powerful. I, especially, appreciated the patience and grace of Marcus, who relies on God for the outcomes and pays no mind to the judgments of others.
There are various scenes that are threatening to both children and adults—a gun is pulled and punches swung against adult and child, and difficult issues of rape and abandonment are discussed throughout. There is some fun bull riding to witness, and romantic interests are developed. Subplots include inner city struggles in the African-American community that the court system and individuals are seeking to overcome, and the protective fear of a mother for her vulnerable son. However, the story mainly revolves around how Tulsa is slowly confronted with his increasingly unmanageable life as he begins to open up to those around him, especially Marcus and Indiana, who travel their own journey on their way to reconciliation.
When Tulsa takes on the task of helping Marcus succeed—by training him for a world-class ride on a bull that no one has successfully ridden—they are continually brought together. It is significant that Marcus makes an effort to reach Tulsa, like someone did for him in prison. The film handles this in a straightforward manner that is not too preachy, yet does not sugarcoat the consequences of negative choices.
I grew to care about these characters and root for this lost cowboy to discover an inner fortitude and a God who can heal and restore. When Marcus gifts Tulsa with a Bible and talks about how he, too, can be free, the metaphor of imprisonment and the themes of forgiveness and redemption are clear. This is an enriching story that is particularly male-oriented with a focus on the negative effects of the lack of committed and sacrificial fathers in the lives of our next generation. In this heartwarming film, the beauty of Godly restoration and the value of accepting God’s will highlights how human growth is sometimes painful, but always transformative.
Dove awards Cowboy & Indiana the Dove-Approved Seal for Ages 18+.
The Dove Take:
The power of community and relationships to restore mental and emotional health is paramount in Cowboy & Indiana and is worth viewing as a way of understanding God’s redemptive grace.