“They Cloned Tyrone (2023)” is a Netflix original film, directed by Juel Taylor, starring John Boyega, Jamie Foxx and Teyonah Parris. Embodying the genres of science fiction, comedy, and mystery, the film follows the unlikely mystery-solving trio of a drug dealer named Fontaine, a pimp named Slick Charles, and a prostitute named Yo-Yo as they are thrust onto the trail of a nefarious government conspiracy happening beneath their neighborhood.
The film is set in a time-ambiguous world, where the mix of dated 20th Century fashion, tech, and cars up against 21st Century pop culture references leaves the viewer never knowing for certain what year it is throughout. With a retrofuturistic vibe, reminiscent of the iconic blaxploitation films of the 70s that created a space for and shined a new light on the creativity of the Black community in the film industry, “They Cloned Tyrone” is a welcome breath of fresh air in a time where sequels and remakes are in abundance; with its costuming, plot and characterization, score and visuals. Each character was well written and thought out, with motivations, charm, and struggles that made each of them entertaining to watch and easy to root for despite their respective occupations being a detriment to their community. The main cast gives a stellar performance, balancing the heavier plotlines and themes of the film with great comedic timing and improvisation that speak to the talent and strong chemistry of the actors. John Boyega especially showcases his impressive range, with the roles of Fontaine and various clones being unlike anything else I’ve seen him in. And with the actor’s strike now over, I’m excited to see more of him.
The incredible soundtrack of the funky science-fiction comedy adds another layer of depth to the plot, with the somewhat blatant messages of mind control and conspiracy in original songs like “Sheisty” and “w250hz” lending a hand to further express the films’ themes of the willingness of the public to overlook the out of place, in favor of living in willful ignorance.
I enjoyed how the film also addressed and played into the conspiracy theories of mind control through consumerism of products targeted to Black American communities like liquor stores, fried chicken restaurants, perm cream and “grape drink,” as well as the toxic cycles of placing and allowing some businesses and crimes in those areas that result in the archetypes that the main trio fall into.
Another thing I thoroughly enjoyed is how the story itself tackles the serious subject of white supremacy and institutionalized racism trying to control the Black community without trivializing the struggle, or preaching the themes as if viewers are in a lecture. The government conspiracy draws especially from the disgusting and painful history of medical experiments conducted on Black populations in the U.S. While this sounds like it has no potential to be funny, it is constantly hilarious due to the great chemistry between the main trio, the ridiculous premise and plot armor, and a healthy dose of racial humor. Despite the fact that it is a comedy, it also ends with a serious call to action about building real community with those around you and fighting to break the mold of what people expect you to become.
Overall, I loved “They Cloned Tyrone.” It has the same psychological, mind-bending plotlines that fans of shows like Netflix’s “Black Mirror,” or movies like Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” will enjoy. The unique humor and social commentary of “They Cloned Tyrone” makes it a film worth watching over and over again, especially to catch all of the subtle hints and foreshadowing brilliantly sprinkled throughout the film.