Sci-fi comedy ‘They Cloned Tyrone’ surprises and delights
A drug dealer, a sex worker, and a pimp walk right into a vast conspiracy. It’s not a joke, but the premise of ‘They Cloned Tyrone,’ a rabbit hole of a sci-fi comedy from the mind of writer-director Juel Taylor.
Take a blacksploitation aesthetic—complete with added film grain, some ‘70s-inspired costuming, and bold yellow typography—combine it with a mix of sci-fi mind control and cloning tropes from the likes of ‘They Live’ and ‘Get Out’ and you’re cooking with gas.
‘They Cloned Tyrone’ begins with the sudden shooting death of neighborhood drug dealer Fontaine (Boyega). Fontaine awakes just after, thinking it was all a dream, but when he visits his pimp friend Slick Charles (Jamie Foxx) and his sex worker Yo-Yo (Teyonah Parris), who witnessed his shooting, Fontaine wants answers. They almost immediately stumble upon a secret underground laboratory in their neighborhood and a body that looks just like Fontaine.
This is just the tip of the mass cover-up, and it goes to some hilarious places, though sadly Cinnamon Scudworth is not involved. The hook here is certainly the premise and that title, but the lasting appeal of ‘Tyrone’ is the trio of engaging comedic performances by Boyega, Parris, and Foxx as they quip their way through each fucked up, stereotyped discovery. I won’t give away too much, but spiked fried chicken is an actual plot point, and it works.
Taylor’s feature directorial debut after writing credits on Creed II and Space Jam: A New Legacy and directing a segment in 2017’s Actors Anonymous brings the laughs and fully earns a place as an instant classic alongside genre benders like ‘Cabin in the Woods.’
Though ‘Tyrone’ feels a bit like an intentional time capsule, with CRT televisions and flip phones strewn about, the film speaks on contemporary issues of police violence, the distractions of media, and more pointedly the existential dread that technological advances like cloning and gene editing exacerbate. Some goofy anachronisms like electric scooters strategically placed for comedic effect also snap the audience into present-day focus.
As an aside, I’d just like to remind everyone how good it is to have Boyega back from the clutches of the Star Wars franchise doing some great genre work, realizing the potential we’ve known was there since Attack the Block. Kiefer Sutherland and David Alan Grier are here, too, which is always welcome.
A release like this landing on streaming in the dead of summer while massive blockbusters slam theaters really hits the spot, and the film plays like it knows it. So, if you choose not to dress up in pink or in drab 1940s congressional hearing garb, stay home and find out just how deep this whole thing really goes.