We have seen many films like Juel Taylor’s feature debut, and they all fall into a common subgenre, blaxploitation, a genre of film born in the 70s. Common features of this genre are black protagonists, the display of racial themes, and the fact that most of the action happens in a black neighbourhood. Superfly, Django Unchained, and Shaft are other examples of films in the genre. Although They Cloned Tyrone is deeply grounded in this genre, it draws inspiration from other genres that add more elements to the plot, and it morphs into an unlikely sci-fi psychological thriller.
Fontaine (John Boyega) is a small-time neighbourhood drug dealer who is trying to secure his turf from rival competitors. He goes to collect a debt owed by the hood pimp, Slick Charles, played by Jamie Foxx, who, just before Fontaine arrives, is chastising one of his girls, Yo-Yo (Teyonah Parris), for being ungrateful. As Fontaine leaves, he is ambushed by rival drug dealer Isaac (Alphonse Nicholas) and shot multiple times. The next day, Fontaine gets up from his bed and goes about his day like he normally would. Nothing out of the ordinary happens until he returns again to collect his debt from Slick, who is more than shocked to see Fontaine. Joined by Yo-Yo, who also witnessed the shooting, the trio tries to solve the conundrum, but they are taken on an adventure they never could have imagined.
They Cloned Tyrone lays heavy on the theme from the beginning, with a random character claiming he had seen 2pac and Michael Jackson, who was now black, and then we are taken through quickly changing scenes that establish the locale and set the tone for the action. There is some grittiness to the action of They Cloned Tyrone, as normally unsimilar themes are moulded together in the adventurous plot, but the eclectic manner in which the story is told and the definitions and embodiments of the characters keep it grounded, preventing it from being far-reaching.
They Cloned Tyrone employs dialogue that is both simple and striking, delivering the message of the film cogently. It also reflects how well influenced the film is by other works. There are several references in the lines and other elements of the film: Yo-Yo is inspired to investigate the mystery by childhood adventure heroine Nancy Drew, and Slick’s appearance closely resembles the Boondocks character, A Pimp Named Slickback, whom Jamie Foxx also seems to have drawn inspiration from.
The energy that the trio of actors playing the central characters brings to the story gives it an edge that makes it enjoyable. The characters are well-defined, and the actors embody the roles adequately. With the news about his health, it is great to see a version of Jamie Foxx that is up and running, applying characterizations that bring his character to life. John Boyega looks comfortable in his role as he reprises a role from a similar film, In Da Block; Teyonah Parris also delivers a praiseworthy performance, appearing to have the most fun of the three.
The cinematography of They Cloned Tyrone enhances the viewing experience. Cinematographer Ken Seng employs creative shots that accentuate the themes of the film and make the action more dramatic. Although we do not get to completely understand why the villains needed to create clones or create these specific clones; we don’t see Tyrone till the end of the film, prompting the thought that this could be a prequel to his story, or it could be a quirky way of titling to take attention away from the plot. However, it goes heavy on other elements. We see Yo-Yo dump her hair wig to embrace her blackness; Slick transcends his stereotypical pimp preset; and we see a community, without the usual communal camaraderie needed, come together to fight a common enemy.
They Cloned Tyrone premiered on Netflix on July 21.
Join the conversation in the comments section or on Twitter.
- Hopefully, in the sequel, we’ll know why they cloned Tyrone.
- It’s sad that this film might get lost in the algorithm with the little publicity and disadvantageous release date.
- How do you enter a lab and go straight to eating the chemicals?
- Who is Tyrone?
- It’s giving stranger things.