09th Aug2023

‘They Cloned Tyrone’ Review (Netflix Original)

by James Rodrigues

Stars: John Boyega, Jamie Foxx, Teyonah Parris, Keifer Sutherland, David Alan Grier, J. Alphonse Nicholson, Tamberla Perry, Eric B. Robinson Jr., Trayce Malachi | Written by Tony Rettenmaier, Juel Taylor | Directed by Juel Taylor

With film-related conversations being recently overtaken by Barbenheimer, spare a thought for the other films also released on the same day as the box-office dominating double bill. One film facing such difficulties was the feature debut from solo-director Juel Taylor, which was already fighting the uphill battle of being a Netflix Original. When They Cloned Tyrone is one of the year’s most fiercely original works, it is disheartening how it is doomed to be buried by a terrible algorithm which prioritises the latest works by transphobic comedians and the many acquisitions which sullied the term “Netflix Original.”

What has been crafted is best experienced knowing as little as possible, so all that can be shared about the plot is how an unlikely trio made-up of drug dealer Fontaine (John Boyega), pimp Slick Charles (Jamie Foxx), and sex worker Yo-Yo (Teyonah Parris) discover a nefarious conspiracy that is linked to the neighbourhood they call home.

After breaking through internationally as Finn in the most recent Star Wars trilogy, John Boyega delivers his best performance yet in this lead role. In-between gang disputes and offering his mother food, he captures the crisis of Fontaine who is motivated by a past tragedy, even if it makes him come off as “a real Squidward.” His paths cross with Slick Charles, a former all-star at the Player’s Ball brought alive by Foxx’s killer performance that threatens to steal every scene. Rounding off the trio is Parris, an utter hoot as Yo-Yo whose desire to find the truth stems from her love of Nancy Drew books.

Many of the laughs in this funny film come courtesy of the lead trio’s interplay, as they are increasingly baffled by the revelations which come from this intriguing mystery. They also effectively deliver the heartbreak and humanity to these characters, as their journey further down the rabbit hole makes it apparent how their reality is falling apart before their very eyes. Aiding the scenes is Pierre Charles’ tremendous composition, which effectively captures the blend of science-fiction elements with the real-world issues the film speaks to.

As the third act ramps up, it is unfortunate how the intercutting of important sequences does not wholly work, leaving the tension to feel diminished by this presentation dragging things out. There is also a question about the effectiveness of Keifer Sutherland’s expository role, yet these are small details within this biting look at America never truly wanting Black citizens to be free. Much like 2018’s Sorry To Bother You, this is an excellent way for a Black creative to deliver social commentary through fantastical means that must be seen to be believed.

**** 4/5

They Cloned Tyrone is available to watch now on Netflix.


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