Directed by: Juel Taylor
Premise: A drug dealer (John Boyega) discovers that he and many people in his neighborhood have been cloned. He’s joined by a pimp (Jamie Foxx) and a sex worker (Teyonah Parris) in pursuit of the truth.
What Works: They Cloned Tyrone has an interesting premise. The movie borrows elements of science fiction paranoia thrillers such as Logan’s Run, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and They Live and presents them in a contemporary urban context. In addition to referencing other films, the movie channels fears about the way the Black community has historically been targeted for experimentation and exploitation by unscrupulous commercial interests as well as the way poverty stricken neighborhoods are poisoned by corporate products such as processed food. The filmmakers have weaved together an interesting and provocative mix of cultural references designed to dramatize the way Black and poor communities are treated by mainstream society and in particular the way commercial interests flatten the distinctiveness of ethnic subcultures. They Cloned Tyrone is led by three unique characters. Fontaine is a drug dealer played by John Boyega. He discovers that he had died and been replaced and sets out to discover the truth. He’s accompanied by Slick Charles, a pimp played by Jamie Foxx, and Yo-Yo, a sex worker played by Teyonah Parris. These characters are colorful and Foxx and Parris play their parts broadly, but the central characters fit into the film’s themes in the way they violate the politics of respectability and yet retain their dignity.
What Doesn’t: They Cloned Tyrone is really interesting as a political work but the film isn’t nearly as successful as a piece of entertainment. It’s too long. The film is lethargically paced with a lot of redundant scenes and the action sequences are poorly staged. There’s no sense of tension or urgency, partly owing to the uninteresting way scenes are shot but also due to a lack of narrative purpose. Stories are about characters who want something and are striving toward a goal. Similar movies like Invasion of the Body Snatchers and They Live are about people uncovering and exposing the truth. The characters of They Cloned Tyrone have similar goals but there is little sense of drama or stakes. That’s partly due to the lack of a coherent antagonist. The villain is a faceless corporation personified by an enforcer played by Kiefer Sutherland but there is little direct conflict. By the end the viewer isn’t left with an impression that anything tangible has been won or lost.
Disc extras: On Netflix.
Bottom Line: They Cloned Tyrone has a provocative premise and it’s a movie that is interesting to analyze and discuss because of its implications. The film is not so successful as piece of sci-fi action entertainment.
Episode: #961 (August 20, 2023)