Juel Taylor’s directorial debut is a weird mash-up of Blaxploitation, comedy and sci-fi with a trio of great leading performances from John Boyega, Jamie Foxx, and Teyonah Parris.
Plot: A series of eerie events thrusts an unlikely trio onto the trail of a nefarious government conspiracy in this pulpy mystery caper.
Review: Certain filmmakers come along that define a style of movie-making that turns their name into a descriptor. In recent years, Jordan Peele has become the benchmark against which many genre films have been compared, especially when they focus on the Black experience. Storytellers like Donald Glover and Boots Riley have come close to earning similar name recognition as Peele. Now, we can add Juel Taylor to the list. They Cloned Tyrone, Taylor’s directorial debut, is a smart science fiction tale wrapped in a comedic allegory that blends blaxploitation with a contemporary flair for a truly unique movie. With yet another stellar leading turn by John Boyega, They Cloned Tyrone showcases great turns from Jamie Foxx and Teyonah Parris for the weirdest movie of the summer.
The trailers and first images released from They Cloned Tyrone are heavily focused on the comedy aspects of the story. From the grill sported by John Boyega, Teyonah Parris’ thigh-high yellow boots, or Jamie Foxx’s off-kilter flattop, everything is dripping with retro flair. Despite taking place in the 21st century, much of They Cloned Tyrone feels ripped from a 1970s low-budget grindhouse movie. From the outset, the movie immediately reminded me of the recent Prime Video series I’m A Virgo and episodes of Donald Glover’s Atlanta. There is a surreal tone pervading They Cloned Tyrone from the first moment we spot Boyega in character as Fontaine. A drug dealer with a routine in his community, Fontaine is a mopey and serious guy who doesn’t mess around. That is until he realizes something strange is happing in his neighborhood, The Glen.
The science fiction element of the plot kicks in one night after Fontaine has a run-in with a prostitute named Yo-Yo (Teyonah Parris) and her pimp, Slick Charles (Jamie Foxx). When the trio begins their investigation, the movie’s feel shifts heavily into comedy and some not-so-subtle jokes involving fried chicken, hair relaxers, and hip-hop music. There are white guys all around town with afros and a strange preacher played by David Alan Grier. As Fontaine, Yo-Yo, and Slick Charles find an underground facility beneath The Glen, they learn the mysteries involving their neighbors, and family goes beyond just cloning. All of these elements are revealed at just about the halfway mark of the two-hour film, leaving a lot of running time which Juel Taylor and co-writer Tony Rettenmaier use to more serious effect. As the film progresses, there is a fair amount of comedy, but the tone shifts into darker themes. Once Kiefer Sutherland shows up, They Cloned Tyrone transforms into a different movie.
While a lesser cast could have gotten lost in the craziness of this story, They Cloned Tyrone benefits from three solid lead actors. Teyonah Parris, the breakout star of the MCU series WandaVision and the upcoming The Marvels, as well as Nia DaCosta’s Candyman, brings charisma to the whipsmart ho Yo-Yo who sees the truth of what is going on in The Glen. Jamie Foxx plays Slick Charles as the most likable pimp I have seen on screen in quite some time, adept at delivering the perfect commentary on whatever bizarre situation is happening at the time. John Boyega steals the show here, adding. They Cloned Tyrone to his string of solid performances in Breaking, Small Axe, and The Woman King. Further distancing himself from being typecast, Boyega does more here with his role(s) than the trailers lead on by balancing an emotional performance with a stoic presence throughout the film.
As much as I really liked They Cloned Tyrone, the film still suffers from the common issue many Netflix originals fall prey to. Running at just about two hours, there are moments through the movie that could have been edited. So much happens in the film’s first half that is not quite related to the overall plot that it could have benefited from trimming a few minutes here and there. These are minor quibbles as Juel Taylor and Tony Rettenmaier have balanced a lot of genre influences and homages throughout. They Cloned Tyrone beyond just exploitation, horror, and science fiction. Taylor has a very skillful approach as a director and uses darkness in many scenes to great effect. The production values throughout are fantastic, with every sign and screen boasting a custom message. So many easter eggs are present that you will have a blast going back through every frame for clues, riddles, and inside jokes.
When the end credits appeared, I wondered what the title They Cloned Tyrone meant. Stay tuned, as there is still more, even when you think the movie is done. I cannot say what that final scene could mean, but if this movie earns the buzz it deserves, there could be more to this story than this two-hour film. They Cloned Tyrone is a weird blend of genres that works out to become a truly original movie unlike anything else out there. Thanks to Boyega, Foxx, Parris, and writer/director Juel Taylor, They Cloned Tyrone may be the most inventive Netflix movie to date. With one of the best soundtracks of the year, which includes a title track performed by Erykah Badu, They Cloned Tyrone is a weird, funny, surreal ride that will have you thinking as much as laughing.
Originally published at https://www.joblo.com/they-cloned-tyrone-review/