THEY CLONED TYRONE Is a Weird and Wonderful Conspiracy Flick

A pimp, a sex worker, and a dope boy walk into an elevator, discover a government cloning conspiracy, and go down one hell of a rabbit hole in their search for truth and justice. That’s the very short summary for what goes down in They Cloned Tyrone, a sci-fi comedy film starring John Boyega, Jamie Foxx, and Teyonah Parris. The trailer’s pulp fiction/mystery caper vibes, Blaxploitation aesthetic, snappy dialogue, and stellar cast set high expectations from fans. Could it all come together to create a hilarious yet introspective investigative romp? The answer to that question is a resounding “yes.” 

They Cloned Tyrone doesn’t follow a Tyrone at all (you’ll have to watch and see what’s up with that name). Instead, our primary protagonist is Boyega’s Fontaine, a drug dealer living in a predominately Black and disenfranchised neighborhood called the Glen. His days are depressingly cyclical: head to the liquor store, waste money on scratch-offs, lift weights, sell drugs, and harass folks for money they owe. This cycle is abruptly broken after a shocking event happens outside of Slick Charles’ (Foxx) abode. He and Fontaine, who witnesses a suspicious kidnapping, surmise that something isn’t right.

Yo-Yo (Parris), a clever and curious employee (using that word loosely) of Charles joins them as they discover an elevator leading to an underground facility. They find several disturbing things, specifically clones of people in the Glen, and have a choice to make. Will they decide to ignore what’s happening and go on their merry way? Or, will they combine their street smarts and outwit “The Man” to save their community? 

John Boyega, Jamie Foxx, and Teyonah Parris in They Cloned Tyrone trailer standing shocked over a body

Boyega, Foxx, and Parris are individually and collectively stunning as the leading trio. They take three common “hood” archetypes and humorously lean into stereotypical personas while also infusing them with rich nuance. Their palpable fear, righteous frustration, keen observations, and fluctuating levels of anger are all pitch perfect. This isn’t surprising because, well, they are top-notch actors who could spin gold from a s**t script. Thankfully, they didn’t have to do that with They Cloned Tyrone. There’s surely some improvisation from Foxx, who delivers some very quotable one-liners. But writer/director Juel Taylor and Tony Rettenmaier pen fantastic dialogue across the board. The frequent and very funny exchanges work in harmony with quieter, introspective moments that anchor the serious undercurrent of the film’s predicament. There are breadcrumbs galore along this journey, so keep your ears open and maybe your closed captioning on.

They Cloned Tyrone deftly examines and redefines who is worthy of protection and who can become a hero. The Glen is the kind of place that many people, including its residents, would dismiss as unworthy of saving. Likewise, our leading trio certainly aren’t the respectable heroes nor pillars of the community. But as the truth unravels, Slick Charles, Yo-Yo, and Fontaine face truths about themselves. They have to reevaluate their place in the Glen, the dangers of complacency, and what’s worth fighting for. It’s a rather heartfelt and hopeful adventure in the midst of expletive-laden banter and absurdist humor.

John Boyega, Teyonah Parris, and Jamie Foxx in They Cloned Tyrone photo in elevator
Parrish Lewis/Netflix

The film draws inspiration from a bevy of sources, from harrowing real-life experimentations on Black people as well as pervasive conspiracy theories with a twist. (The concept of using chemical straightening creams, colloquially known as a relaxer, to literally make women dismiss their frustrations is quite inspired.) Movies like Groundhog Day, It Follows, Hollow Man, They Live, and perhaps Black Dynamite are certainly felt within its narrative and somehow, it works like a charm. They Cloned Tyrone is designed for entertainment but there are some interesting bits that lend for deeper (and scarier) conversations.

As this movie’s world expands, we get a smattering of supporting characters in key locales who make brief yet powerful impact. From the pastor who promotes praise in the midst of strife to the local drunk who sees literally everything, there’s rich and layered characterization at every level. The trailer gives us a small peek into its ending. However, They Cloned Tyrone manages to throws enough curveballs for truly surprising reveals. The cinematography is gorgeous, the pacing is excellent, and the soundtrack is absolutely killer. It has a rewatchable factor and viewers will catch new elements each time. Are there some things that open up plot holes if you think about them too hard? Sure. But why are you thinking so hard? Just let They Cloned Tyrone‘s trippy vibe take you on a fantastic mystery saga.

They Cloned Tyrone

They Clone Tyrone hits Netflix on July 21.

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