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They Cloned Tyrone Review

by Daniel Reynolds
3.0 out of 5.0 stars

The uneasy undercurrent in They Cloned Tyrone, directed by Juel Taylor, creates enough mystery to keep the action interesting and the audience on the hook. The film plays like a grainy B-movie of yesteryear and steers into obvious stereotypes—yet something is off. Not just the doubling of star John Boyega, but something more. When Taylor’s film is riding that paranoid energy, it feels like a spiritual successor to They Live crossed with Jordan Peele. In short, it gets points for ambition.

As co-written with Tony Rettenmaier, They Cloned Tyrone introduces us to three characters who also happen to fill in as standard “ghetto” figures: Fontaine the drug dealer, Slick Charles the pimp, and Yo-Yo the prostitute—played respectively by Boyega, Jamie Foxx, and Teyonah Parris. After a run-in with rivals leaves Fontaine dead, it comes as a shock to see him up and around the next day with no memory of what happened the night before. In the spirit of a wacky midnight movie, the trio decides to figure out what the hell is going on, which leads them to fixtures of the community (e.g. a church) and other unexpected places (an underground laboratory). While the comic energy of Foxx and Parris strains to keep things light, there’s a disquieting tone to much of Taylor’s film as it deploys various well-worn African-American clichés with a knowing smirk. This comic dissonance is held together by Boyega, though, who once again imbues his role with a soulfulness that transcends the unevenness of the film he’s in; we want him to get to the bottom of this grand conspiracy.

It’s possible to make a film of this type and also to be glib about it (see again: They Live). What’s missing from Taylor is a real grip on the awesome terror and monstrousness of what’s being suggested in They Cloned Tyrone. My hints may induce you to watch it—and, to be clear, there are far worse films out there—but as it all goes down, the feeling persists: it should amount to more.

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