Get ready for a refreshing twist on your summer watchlist with ‘They Cloned Tyrone,’ a film that stands out amidst the sea of lackluster original content on streaming platforms. Despite being filmed a couple of years back, it’s quietly making its way to Netflix without much buzz, which seems to be a classic oversight by these streaming giants. Make sure you catch this gem before it’s lost in the shuffle.
Expect to hear folks draw parallels with hits like ‘Get Out,’ ‘Sorry to Bother You,’ and the cherished Blaxploitation genre that co-writer/director Juel Taylor pays homage to. However, this film marks an impressive first outing, not just for its smart blend of nods from ‘Hollow Man’ to ‘Foxy Brown.’ What really shines through is the dynamic trio of actors who bring their A-game, lighting up the screen with their charisma. The finale may not hit every note perfectly, but that’s only because the rest of the movie sets such a high bar with its delightful, sharp, and surprising storytelling.
John Boyega takes on the role of Fontaine, a man who seems to fit the mold of the stereotypical ‘gritty Black drama protagonist’ at first glance. He’s got the usual setup: an absent mother whose voice we only hear beyond a door and a deceased brother whose memory influences his ethical decisions. As a brooding drug dealer, he seems destined to realize life’s true values while narrowly escaping his rivals’ bullets. But don’t be fooled—this isn’t your typical narrative.
Opening with a beautifully shot introduction that paints The Glen as more than just a backdrop, thanks to the skilled work of cinematographer Ken Seng, we meet Fontaine. His life takes a shocking turn when he’s gunned down by one of his clients, the charismatic Slick Charles (played by Jamie Foxx), only to rise again the next day as if nothing had happened. His reappearance stuns not only Charles, a former Players Ball champion but also Yo-Yo (Teyonah Parris), a sex worker who was an eyewitness to the event.
Yo-Yo, quick on her feet and with a love for Nancy Drew mysteries from her youth, jumps into detective mode. She leads the group on a quest that reveals secrets so wild and far-fetched they’re hard to believe. Without giving away the plot, “They Cloned Tyrone” cleverly twists Blaxploitation tropes with a “Cabin in the Woods” vibe, hinting at a hidden force determined to maintain the status quo. As Fontaine, Charles, and Yo-Yo peel back the layers of their community’s manipulation, they’re determined to sever the puppeteer’s control.
The script by Taylor and Tony Rettenmaier once celebrated on the prestigious Black List, shines with originality and humor. It’s brought to life by the dynamic trio of Boyega, Parris, and Foxx. Each actor adds a unique beat to the film’s heart: Boyega is the brooding, sorrowful protagonist; Parris injects vibrant bravery; and Foxx provides laughs without overshadowing the others. Their combined talents create a symphony of comedic brilliance, proving that sometimes the wildest conspiracy theories are just scratching the surface. The chemistry between Boyega, Foxx, and Harris is a highlight, showcasing their collective talent in every scene.
As “Tyrone” reveals its secrets and delves into the ‘what’s happening’ aspect through a revealing conversation with a villain, masterfully portrayed by Kiefer Sutherland, it seems there’s not enough time left to wrap up its initial promise. The last thirty minutes, while not disappointing, feel more hurried and conventional compared to the standout first hour. Additionally, the film touches on themes of community and the roles we’re often cast in, which could have been expanded beyond the explanatory speeches.
Despite the heavy load of concepts it carries, “They Cloned Tyrone” stands firm, thanks in no small part to its stellar cast. Moreover, Juel Taylor’s direction shows a keen eye and ambition, heralding a bright future. He may tip his hat to iconic films like “A Clockwork Orange” and “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” but he does so in an exciting and original way. It’s safe to say that Taylor’s career is shaping up to be as unique as his filmmaking style.
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