It’s business as usual in The Glen. Drug dealers roam the streets pushing product and collecting debts. Sex workers serve more than carnal desires by being eyes and ears on the streets. Pimps control inventory from shady motels adorned with cheap rugs and old blinds. Territories are disputed, and scores are settled. Today was a good day. Things are as they should be. Until they are not.
The grainy image style infused with psychedelic vibes and funkadelic sounds would make any audience think they are watching the latest Blaxploitation picture. The introduction to They Cloned Tyrone plays out as such. But then things take on several unexpected twists.
The supposed period piece reminds audiences that the story takes place in modern times with conversations surrounding blockchain. The straightforward approach detours into the supernatural. From that point, They Cloned Tyrone continues its genre exploration by visiting horror and sci-fi, resulting in a mashup that never skims on the comedy, all while gradually revealing its intentions.
The genre mashup is directed and written confidently by Juel Taylor. Along with co-writer Tony Rettenmaier the two have penned a unique script with all the obvious callbacks to the Blaxploitation film era. Inspiration from the works of the Coen brothers, along with hints from the 2018 film Sorry to Bother You, are also peppered in.
Taylor and Rettenmaier have crafted a wicked smart film. The dialogue comes at you at a rapid-fire pace. Overall, the back and forth between characters provides laugh-out-loud humor, all while revealing essential elements helpful to understanding the oddness on display. It forces audiences to pay attention, fully enveloping them as they are pulled along on the caper.
Fontaine (John Boyega), the drug dealer, Slick Charles (Jamie Foxx), the pimp, and Yo-Yo (Teyonah Parris), the sex worker, are hardly the trio equipped with the means of solving a supernatural mystery. Through a series of coincidences, they find themselves tackling oddities upon oddities as they try to solve the out-of-place occurrences happening in The Glen. Every clue solved delves them deeper into mystery until they eventually discover the nefarious elements responsible for their predicament.
The cast here is superb. Boyega, as Fontaine, strikes the proper balance of tough and vulnerable, all while excelling at comedic timing. Parris plays Yo-Yo with purpose and endearment. Her energy is infectious, and her presence is demanding. Understandably, audiences cannot help but root for her. Foxx gives an uproarious performance as Slick Charles, adding the pimp with a change of heart to his already vast list of memorable characters.
They Cloned Tyrone is one of the most unique films to release this year. It fully embraces the challenges of tackling complex social subjects with humor, wit, and style. It is a love letter to the style of Blaxploitation films of the 70s, yet it openly takes this genre and turns it on its head.
The central characters play into the negative stereotypes associated with the black characters of these films. However, the subjects in They Cloned Tyrone experience a social awakening. The status quo is not etched in stone. Labels and purpose are imposed by outliers. Furthermore, it is up to the targeted communities whether they choose to be content and accept the exploitation or whether they will stand up to the unfair challenges brought against them.
The unfit trio visits crack houses and churches. They eat amusing chicken at the neighborhood restaurant. Similarly, barber shops and beauty parlors are havens for agreeable and not-so-agreeable discussions. Their quest leads them to underground depths where disturbing and uncomfortable answers await. Fontaine, Yo-Yo, and Slick Charles realize how deeply rooted and widespread systems of control, exploitation, oppression, and assimilation are ingrained in our institutions. All are designed to stifle change and ensure things stay as they should. Until they are not.