The satirical sci-fi conspiracy film, They Cloned Tyrone, is now streaming, but should you give it a watch?
On a recent episode of the wonderful film review podcast The Big Picture, co-host & film critic Sean Fennessey brought up what he termed as the “Get Out Generation” of movies in reaction to the recent horror comedy release The Blackening that came out earlier this summer.
Get Out’s release was such a massive cultural & cinematic success that it spawned a series of films over the last five years that have been influenced by its specific blend of race & societal issues mixed into more suspenseful genres like horror or science fiction with a dash of satirical wit.
Films like Midsommar, Ma, Run, Nanny, Sorry to Bother You, Candyman (2021), and, of course, Peele’s follow-up films Us and Nope have benefited from the notoriety & audience appetite for this style of film.
While Fennessey’s hypothesis concluded with the theory that, once a spoof film like The Blackening comes along, the style that is being parodied will no longer have the strong hold on its audience that it once did, Netflix is hoping that there is room for at least one more with their latest addition to the group, They Cloned Tyrone.
Co-written & directed by Creed II scribe Juel Taylor, the film pays homage to the blueprint set forth by Get Out and Peele’s 70s & 80s influences (such as They Live, A Clockwork Orange, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, & The Stepford Wives to name a few) and remixes it with the look & feel of 70s Blaxsploitation crime films set in the inner city and a dash of 90s John Singleton tone when it serves early on.
Tyrone centers around Fontaine (John Boyega), a young neighborhood dope dealer who is gunned down by his rival Isaac one evening and is shocked to wake up in his bed the next morning completely unharmed. Putting together clues to solve his own mystery, Fontaine enlists local pimp Slick Charles (Jamie Foxx) & prostitute Yo-Yo (Teyonah Parris) to track down answers “Nancy Drew” style. But when the trail leads to a nefarious government conspiracy, this unlikely trio has to decide whether to maintain the status quo or finally stand up to their overlords for the sake of their community.
With so many obvious influences & themes on display, it would be incredibly easy for Taylor’s film to fall victim to cliche & banality. However, the first-time director utilizes his incredible cast & mystery caper atmosphere to set itself apart from its peers.
If you make it too funny or satirical, you land in Undercover Brother or The Blackening territory. Make it too serious and the 70s Blaxsploitation feel rings false & hacky. Take it out of the inner city and put it in the ‘burbs and you cloned Get Out. Taylor strikes a balance that can be hard to find, especially in the straight-to-streaming market of films.
The film peaks when the bizarro Scooby-Doo gang of Boyega, Foxx, & Parris join forces to track down the secret conspiracy beneath the surface of their neighborhood. The quirkiness & reluctance of Foxx’s Slick Charles, the bubbling anger & commanding presence of Boyega’s Fontaine, and the persistence & aspirational nature of Parris’ Yo-Yo make for a fun hang for the audience and a useful Swiss Army knife for its Director to match the varying tones that make the movie so nimble & enjoyable.
While the conspiracy itself doesn’t mark new ground (including the well-worn Chicken, Crème, & Church ingredients), the “assimilation versus annihilation’ dialogue and the failed experiment of America backdrop is relevant and pressing enough to give the story the depth needed to make the journey stand up.
Overall, They Cloned Tyrone gives new life to the Get Out societal freak-out films of the last few years. Juel Taylor’s debut effort gives its audience pulpy mystery, effortlessly fun performances, & a societal conversation worth exploring. What could have been a “clone” of Jordan Peele’s filmography ends up being something uniquely entertaining and stands on its own.
Watch They Cloned Tyrone on Netflix If You Like
- Get Out
- Undercover Brother
- Cabin in the Woods
- Jackie Brown
- The Blackening
MVP of They Cloned Tyrone
John Boyega as Fontaine.
Breaking out in a major franchise is a blessing and a curse for a young actor, especially for actors of color. While you may be seen by a mass audience, they may want to put you in that box forever.
John Boyega is quietly putting together an irrefutable collection of solid performances that make him one of the most consistent and interesting actors we have right now. Following in the footsteps of talented peers like Daniel Kaluuya & LaKeith Stanfield, Boyega is proving his abilities out in small to mid budget fare with films like Detroit, Breaking, & The Woman King.
With Tyrone, he marks another strong performance in a well-made film that has something to say to the culture. Fontaine is the steady backbone to sci-fi schism that surrounds him. The tone his character sets keeps this genre-blending, multi-level story from coming off the tracks.
PLAY, PAUSE, OR STOP?
Sci-Fi, Comedy, & Mystery all wrapped up in a message worth discussing. Boyega, Foxx, & Parris are an absolute blast and a well-balanced trio.