'They Cloned Tyrone' Review: Jamie Foxx & John Boyega Are Cool Conspirators in a Stylish Netflix Caper

‘They Cloned Tyrone’ Review: Jamie Foxx & John Boyega Are Cool Conspirators in a Stylish Netflix Caper

Everyone has a role to play in The Glen, the gritty locale that forms the backdrop for Juel Taylor’s stylish directorial debut, They cloned Tyrone.

The grocery store manager keeps the refrigerator full of cold boxes and the counter full of rillos and scratch cards. An elderly man parks himself outside the dingy shop and dispenses cryptic advice (“It’s in the water, young blood”) in exchange for generous sips of beer. The strip club dancers and prostitutes form a sort of ad hoc CCTV, observing what is happening in the neighbourhood; you will need the secrets for the right price. Their pimps, those hustlers wearing alligator-print shoes, play a role — and so do the drug dealers, who patrol their territories with their vintage whips.

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They cloned Tyrone

The bottom line

Elegant and surreal.

Release date: Friday 21st July
Launch: John Boyega, Teyonah Parris, Jamie Foxx, Kiefer Sutherland
Director: Joel Taylor
Screenwriters: Tony Rettenmaier, Juel Taylor

Rated R, 2 hours 2 minutes

Community happenings seem somewhat typical. There are cookouts and turf wars, sweaty Saturday nights at the club and spiritual Sunday mornings in the pews. But look closer and there are details that warp the image. An eerie mood creeps in and questions must be asked: what year is it? Where is this place? Who are these people and what do they mean to each other?

By constructing a sense of dramatic foreboding by sidestepping these issues, the director creates a I am sorry to bother you-esque story (with touches of Atlanta surrealism) about violence, community and conspiracies against blacks. They cloned Tyrone – broadcast on Netflix – also brings to mind novels such as George Schuyler’s dystopian satire No more black and Zakiya’s thriller Delilah Harris The other black girl. The former is prompted by the invention of a device that whitens the skin of blacks; in the latter, the protagonist wonders about the appearance of a new black colleague, one whose obsequious manner suggests a deeper and more sinister fraud. Like those books, They cloned Tyrone turns a mystery into his sci-fi fantasy.

In the film, Fontaine (John Boyega) must figure out why The Glen, a place he thought he knew, feels both real and unreal at the same time. It takes him a minute to get there, though. Fontaine is a brooding drug dealer and man of routine, and Boyega plays him with a marked toughness, rarely grinning to show off his row of gold grillz. A thoughtful aura surrounds the character as he marches through his daily life: mornings are for stops at the food market to get beer and cigarettes, to scratch tickets and chat with Frog (Leon Lamar), the older man who serves as a wise neighborhood. Fontaine picks up Junebug (Trayce Malachi), a boy he informally adopted as his pupil, and together they watch for trespassers: the merchant hates it when underlings of his rival boss try to steal from his customers.

A death kicks off Fontaine’s investigation – the twist is that it is his own death. After chasing one of his clients, pimp Slick Charles (Jamie Foxx), for payment, Fontaine ends up in a fight with his competitor (P-Valleby J. Alphonse Nicholson). Their tense exchange culminates in a hail of bullets and a dead body. When Fontaine shows up again the next day, Slick Charles and his employee Yo-Yo (Teyonah Parris), who have seen Fontaine’s lifeless body, are more than a little confused.

They cloned Tyrone it is not a ghost story, but an unknown entity haunting its characters. After Fontaine’s unholy resurrection, Slick Charles and Yo-Yo reluctantly join him on a mission to make sense of what is happening. Their adventure is enthralling without being unnerving: Taylor and co-writer Tony Rettenmaier struggle to sustain the tension, all too often dodging their storytelling’s most suspenseful moments with alien comic relief and exposition. The closer Fontaine gets to discovering the nefarious activity in The Glen, the more They cloned Tyrone staggers under the weight of his logic. More streamlined explanatory monologues could have helped, preventing the cumbersome information dumps that detract from the flow of the story. Notably, the film’s big reveal didn’t strike as much as it might have if the reveals were rolled out more gradually.

However, overall it’s a challenging ride. Much of this can be attributed to the cast, whose ability to play both comedy and drama makes their characters noteworthy. Foxx is dependable and funny as a pimp trying to dodge his cocaine dealer (Fontaine) and handle his toughest employee (Yo-Yo). He mixes sharp one-liners with subtle physical comedy that sustains manyThey cloned Tyronethe funniest scenes. When Foxx is on screen with Parris, a certain kind of magic happens. The pair treat their characters’ verbal brawls like rappers in a nutshell: their metaphors are fluid and their egos enormous.

Their interaction complements the score by composers Pierre Charles and Desmond Murray, as well as musical supervision by Philippe Pierre and Stephanie Diaz-Matos. The latter pair make expert use of hits ranging from Alicia Myers’ “I Want to Thank You” to Diana Ross’ “Love Hangover” and a new mix of Erykah Badu’s “Tyrone.”

The aesthetic elements of They cloned Tyrone consistently, and Taylor composes surreal scenes with a disturbing specificity, including one during a church’s Sunday revival and another in front of a convenience store, where locals hang themselves and trade conspiracy theories. The director builds a solid portrait of a community subtly shaped by the politics of Ella Baker, the civil rights activist whose belief in working-class self-determination fueled many movements. Under the lightning of They cloned Tyrone it’s an idea that Taylor, an up-and-coming director, eventually comes up with but could have allowed the story to be framed more sharply: when everyone knows their roles, a community is an unstoppable force.