THE STORY – A series of eerie events thrusts an unlikely trio onto the trail of a nefarious government conspiracy in this pulpy mystery caper.
THE CAST – John Boyega, Jamie Foxx, Teyonah Parris, David Alan Grier & Kiefer Sutherland
THE TEAM – Juel Taylor (Director/Writer) & Tony Rettenmaier (Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 122 Minutes
Since 2016, Hollywood’s landscape has rapidly shifted in a handful of ways. One notable way is the boom of social satires in the horror and comedy genre. Although works like “Get Out” and the series “Atlanta” have not even been out for a decade, their influence has been immense. Studios are constantly elevating works to cash in on this trend, yet for the most part, it backfires on them. No wonder these films fail to live up to the quality and ingenuity of what came before them. This happens when they choose to make a quality film secondary to platforming a half-baked social premise the entire pitch was based on. Thankfully Juel Taylor’s sophomore feature “They Cloned Tyrone” is an incredibly entertaining absurdist romp that delivers on both fronts.
“They Clone Tyrone” follows Fontaine (played by John Boyega), a local trapper living in “The Glen” who struggles to balance taking care of his mother, managing his employees like the pimp Slick Charles (played by Jamie Foxx), and overall just making it through the day. After surviving an ambush, a confused Fontaine, joined by Slick Charles and his escort Yo-Yo (played by Teyonah Parris), begins investigating this impossible scenario. This leads the unlikely trio to unravel a government conspiracy involving cloning citizens of “The Glen” like Fontaine and infiltrating their entire community as they know it. Boyega, Foxx, and Parris are all lights out. They each bring such unique and distinct styles to their characters, and it plays off one another perfectly. Fontaine is a very reserved yet aggressive individual. Boyega brings such an internalized rage due to the ever-evolving confusion this scenario brings upon his character. It’s all connected to the tragedy he’s had to experience in his life due to his troubled upbringing. Fontaine being so self-serious also works well as it establishes him as the straight man to Slick Charles and Yo-Yo. Foxx and Parris bring most of the comedic thunder throughout the film. Foxx playing a high-pitched, overly dramatic, and fashionably outdated pimp is consistently entertaining. Every line reading Foxx has in the film is just a gold mine of laughter. Foxx still brings the dramatic chops as well, as the film delves into the incredibly sad nature of Slick Charles feeling out of place compared to the youth Fontaine brings, as well as Yo-Yo. Parris brings such energy to the film. Yo-Yo is an escort desperate for a change as she’s sick of Slick Charles’s overbearing personality and the nature of her work. Yo-Yo is the film’s emotional catalyst and the trio’s unspoken leader. The chemistry between these leads is immaculate as the screenplay services each of their strengths as actors.
Besides a well-crafted screenplay, “They Cloned Tyrone’s” biggest strength is the overall unique vision instilled by director Juel Taylor. There’s such an assured direction coming from Taylor, as every aspect of the film, down to each impeccable character design, is purposely intentional. The technicals of the film are far better than most of what you expect for a typical Netflix production. The score is incredibly crisp, sounding like a soulful Funkadelic-esque album mixed with eerie electronic beats. Taylor’s visual aesthetic also couldn’t have been more clear to audiences. “They Clone Tyrone” is reminiscent of 70’s blaxploitation films while adding an overtly absurdist sci-fi spin that never comes off as overbearing. Taylor’s ability to bring “The Glen” to life as an environment that feels authentic and incredibly lived in sells why this is a place worth protecting. Every personality that inhabits “The Glen” feels like someone we’d all know. From the hairdressers to the rival dealers, they don’t feel like stereotypical caricatures but individuals. With the wrong filmmaker, they easily could’ve robbed what makes each character that inhabits “The Glen” so special. Audiences wouldn’t have connected as to why “The Glen” is worth protecting, especially a majority of white audiences who don’t experience these circumstances in this country. Many non-Black audiences would ask, “Why wouldn’t people want a neighborhood like this to change?” The answer is honestly plain and simple. It isn’t your choice to make! Sure, communities like “The Glen” have issues, but what community is perfect?
Inherently this concept is further baked into the grand conspiracy of the film, which won’t be revealed due to its spoilery nature. “They Clone Tyrone” does struggle with getting to its point, as by the end of the second act, it feels as though audiences have already more than grasped what the film is trying to say. Also, one of the film’s antagonists, played by Kiefer Sutherland, is incredibly cartoonish. Even if it is intentional, it feels a bit distracting from the bigger picture and the tone the film works hard to establish. “They Clone Tyrone” stumbles a bit by the end, but the overall experience is wonderfully entertaining. Instead of chasing the surreal fever dream blending popularized as of late by Donald Glover’s “Atlanta,” “They Clone Tyrone” tries to do its own thing. It might be flawed, but it’s sure more consistent, entertaining, and effective than most social satires coming out now.