Movie Review: Cowboys (2021)

Cowboys [DVD] [2020] - Best Buy

Title: Cowboys

Director: Anna Kerrigan

Actor(s): Steve Zahn, Sasha Knight

Genre: Drama

Runtime: 1 hour 26 minutes

Rating: B-

Recommended?: Yes

Steve Zahn’s fantastic performance adds credibility to an uneven script in this somber drama about a Bipolar man who abducts his transgender son and takes him into the mountains for an excursion that goes inevitably awry.

Joe (played by promising young talent Sasha Knight, who’s transgender in real life) is not accepted by his mom (Jillian Bell,) and his dad Troy (Steve Zahn) is irresponsible and just went to jail for physically assaulting his brother-in-law and his son when the boy used a slur against Joe.

Joe’s mom wants him to dress and act like a girl and feels like Troy is ‘encouraging’ his gender identity and making his life harder. When Joe and Troy run away together and Troy soon stops taking his medication, Sally has a determined police officer (Ann Dowd) out looking for them and Troy tries to support his son despite the less than ideal (to say the least) circumstances he’s put them in.

It’s not easy to believably pull off playing a character with a mental illness but Steve Zahn does a great job balancing his love for his son, his unfitness as a parent and his messy descent into mania. I started to feel less sympathy for him as the film went on and I think the only character in the movie who’s really likable by the end is Joe, caught between two dysfunctional parents. One thing I really didn’t like about this movie was the soundtrack.

It was constantly playing this generic ‘old West’ style music which didn’t fit with a modern film, even one with a cowboy theme. It also sometimes felt tonally inappropriate, like when a weirdly upbeat and cheerful piece accompanies Troy grabbing and hitting his brother-in-law’s son.

While I did like the relationship between Troy and Joe, the screenplay itself could have used some work in parts. I felt like Joe’s feelings towards his father should have changed by the end but you didn’t really get any sense of that. It makes sense that Troy’s character didn’t really change but I felt like Joe should have gotten more of a character arc.

It seemed like the mom was the only character who changed and that seemed a little forced, like it had to happen for the story to progress. I was glad they didn’t go for a super-predictable tragic ending, but I was still hoping for a little more.


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