Science-fiction, comedy, blaxploitation, satire, horror, and mystery all come together in They Cloned Tyrone. The ambitious film centers on an unlikely trio—played by John Boyega, Teyonah Parris, and Jamie Foxx—as they discover and uncover the government’s secret underground lair, wherein they conduct cloning experiments.
Boyega shines as the central character, Fontaine. Fontaine works as a drug dealer in a community called The Glen. After the film sets up the exposition—chiefly establishing The Glen as a predominantly Black neighborhood — Fontaine heads to collect from a customer — Foxx’s Slick Charles, a pimp – but is shot and dies. However, Fontaine actually has a sort of Groundhog Day moment, waking up the next day and continuing on with life as if nothing had happened the night before. He then meets up with Slick again to collect the rest of his money. Of course, Slick is shocked to see Fontaine alive, as is Yo-Yo (Parris), one of Slick’s sex workers, who was at the scene the previous night. The rest of the film plays out as the unexpected trio investigates what’s going on with their neighborhood, uncovering the country’s secret cloning experiments targeting Black people.
What makes the film particularly worthwhile is the social commentary and the performances from the leads—especially from Boyega and Parris.
With the plot centering on a government cloning conspiracy targeting the Black community, it brings to mind a certain real-life conspiracy—the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment. Its horrific factors and impacts on African-Americans mirror the tragedies faced by those of the Black community taken from The Glen to become a part of the experimental cloning scheme. The similarities may not be fully intentional, but it nonetheless provides powerful commentary on racism faced by the Black community.
Boyega brings a lot of depth to his character. He especially shines in the film’s last half hour, when much of the unveiling occurs. Parris’ performance is quite notable as well—the film’s standout in my mind. She brings a really charismatic energy to her character of Yo-Yo that aids in making the story compelling. Amidst the nightmarish story, she brings lots of wit and humor to the film. A handful of lines out of her punchy dialogue are quite memorable.
They Cloned Tyrone is not without its flaws. Despite a gripping narrative, the pacing is the main issue at hand. For one, the film’s set up feels too long-drawn-out. And the trio don’t make their initial main discovery until about an hour in, which is already halfway through the film. I found myself a tad impatient, waiting for the film to really take off. On the other hand, the final act is quite rushed. It’s odd that most of the film would be a bit slowly-paced, but then the ending scenes are hurried. It doesn’t give ample time for the audience to best understand and process all the truths uncovered about the cloning project.
But despite these few setbacks, They Cloned Tyrone remains a decent watch with a lot to say. It’s creative, clever, and well-incorporates its important message. I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up becoming a cult favorite down the line.
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A daring genre-blending feature directorial debut from Juel Taylor, They Cloned Tyrone is a worthwhile watch.
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