They Cloned Tyrone
Netflix's satirical sci-fi spin on Blaxploitation springs surprises, laughs.
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“They Cloned Tyrone,” available to stream on Netflix beginning Friday, July 21, isn’t the easiest movie to review. The nuts and bolts of the picture are super-spoiler-y, but I’ll say this much … it reminded me a good deal of Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” and Boots Riley’s “Sorry to Bother You.” (I’d argue it hews qualitatively closer to the latter as opposed to the former – that is to say it’s good and funny albeit flawed.)
John Boyega stars as Fontaine, an Atlanta-based drug dealer who lives with his mother, has a murdered little brother and fights for turf with rival peddler Isaac (J. Alphonse Nicholson). Jamie Foxx (who also produced) is Slick Charles, a pimp who’s indebted to Fontaine and runs “hoes” like Yo-Yo (Teyonah Parris) out of a dumpy motel room.
Things are askew in their hood. Fontaine seemingly lives the same day repeatedly, a clichéd fried chicken commercial is omnipresent and a shady government operative (Kiefer Sutherland) begins poking around and making demands of Hotlanta’s denizens. It’s now up to these hustlers to get to the bottom of all this shady shit.
“They Cloned Tyrone” is a satirical sci-fi spin on 1970s Blaxploitation flicks (replete with the requisite grain, grime and grit). It’s co-written by Tony Rettenmaier and Juel Taylor and directed by Taylor. These fellas were previously in the LeBron James business having penned “Space Jam: A New Legacy” and Peacock’s “Shooting Stars.” Taylor also had a hand in scripting “Creed II.”
The film won’t be for all tastes (the F-word and N-word are thrown around like they’re going out of style), but it’s smart and funny and has thoughtful things to say about how people of color are treated by this country’s corporations and government. Also, if you’ve ever wanted to see a heavyset black man run around brandishing a pistol and an electric handheld fan simultaneously this is the movie for you!
Boyega, Foxx and Parris are all very good and have strong chemistry with one another. Boyega makes Fontaine hugely sympathetic despite the character doing dirt. Foxx is the funniest he’s been in ages … simply looking at Slick Charles had me giggling. Parris is arguably the best of the bunch. Despite being a sex worker Yo-Yo is easily the movie’s smartest character. She’s has hopes, dreams and goals and kinda plays like a hood Nancy Drew (Nancy Dru Hill?). I’ve enjoyed Parris’ work elsewhere (“Chi-Raq,” “If Beale Street Could Talk,” Disney+’s “WandaVision” and “Candyman” (2021)), but this just might be the best she’s been to date. I look forward to watching her blow up even bigger when “The Marvels” drops later this year.
My advice to y’all is this – go into “They Cloned Tyrone” with an open mind and knowing as little as possible. It’s got laughs and surprises to spring upon ya that are best left unspoiled.