They Cloned Tyrone (Rated R)
By: Adam Freed
Over the weekend, in the vast shadow of the Barbenheimer culture-quake, Netflix quietly released what may prove to be one of the most uniquely enjoyable yet potent direct to streaming films of the year. They Cloned Tyrone, written and helmed by Juel Taylor (Creed II) is a refreshingly modern film rooted both tonally and stylistically in the Blaxploitation era of the 1970’s. The magic of Tyrone is that it is so unapologetically comfortable being itself. The genre bending science fiction, mystery, comedy, is only possible with the full commitment on all creative fronts. This level of dedication produces a modern conspiracy tale in which almost all of the cars, costumes, furniture and music hail from the Nixon era. Through this dual decade lens, Juel Taylor satirically sheds light on the trappings of the black experience in America in such a fresh and flamboyantly cutting way, that even the film’s cryptic title begins to feel right.
The rousing alchemy of Tyrone’s three leads, John Boyega, Teyonah Parris, and Jaime Foxx is without question the magic of the film. The excitement of Boyega playing against type as self described “traphouse drug dealer” Fontaine earns attention. But it is Foxx’s Slick Charles, the actor’s most compelling performance since his academy award capturing Ray (2004), who with Parris earns the complete surrender of the audience. The comedic gravitas of the two establish a love-hate, whip-sharp partnership as the aging pimp and his business partner / sex worker Yo Yo, conduct a dialogue duet that rivals the best two part comedy acts in memory. Imagine Lucy & Desi with the latitude of 21st century content and language. The unlikely and unfit trio of would-be detectives are tasked with solving a mysterious conspiracy laying waste to their community.
They Cloned Tyrone seems the worthy offspring of Foxy Brown (1974), Friday (1995) and Stranger Things (Netflix), all anchored with Coen Brothers levels of dialogue execution. A curious chemistry indeed, but one that produces meaningful cultural messaging in need of broad audiences seeking a brighter tomorrow. Taylor’s satiric oration on cultural power dynamics speaks to the unscalable wall of upward mobility facing America's black community. The film’s poignant realization pertaining to the resistance of cultural assimilation elevates what could’ve been a fun watch into something closer to the ambitions of Jordan Peele film. Slick Charles, Yo Yo and Fontaine are as of today not household names, but nor were Foxy Brown, Dolemite and Super Fly until culture bent to make way for their existence. They Cloned Tyrone is a movie worthy of similar levels of consideration.
Target Score: 7/10 Just strange enough to be memorable. Iconic soundtrack and character building allows for an enjoyable and aesthetically pleasing experience.