They Cloned Tyrone
UK Release: 21/07/2023
Directed by: Juel Taylor
Starring: John Boyega, Jamie Foxx, Teyonah Parris
Drug dealers, pimps, and hookers are the stars of the show in They Cloned Tyrone, a modern-day blaxploitation flick like no other.
John Boyega stars as Fontaine – a young man who’s fallen into a life of crime to support himself and his never-present mother. It’s a familiar story, and when Fontaine goes to collect from Slick Charles (Jamie Foxx) you begin to realise that the film really ramps up the ‘70s blaxploitation tropes.
Thankfully, it’s all by design.
Slick Charles is straight out of a pulp fiction with his fur-trimmed coat and entire library of hilarious one-liners. He really is one slick motherfucker.
Then there’s Yo-Yo, played by Teyonah Parris. She’s often dismissed by Slick Charles as just a ho, but you’ll quickly find there’s a lot more to her than meets the eye. She has big dreams, and a penchant for Nancy Drew novels arms her with the cunning intellect she needs to get to the bottom of a pretty fun mystery…
The retro-styled neighbourhood of The Glen is packed full of colourful characters who draw on classic ‘70s tropes with a dash of modern flare thrown in. But it’s when things go sideways that the real story kicks in.
A deal goes bad, and Fontaine gets whacked – a flurry of bullets to the chest leaves him slumped in the driver’s seat of his car. But when he wakes up the next day with no memory of what went down, Slick Charles is hilariously spooked.
Even just as a standard blaxploitation movie, They Cloned Tyrone really works.
However, what unfolds is a sci-fi thriller that’s dripping with all the style and retro flair of a classic ‘70s pulp flick. It’s a neat trick – mashing together two unexpected genres to create a stylish take on something familiar.
And it’s done with such gusto that you can’t help but get drawn right into the story.
Director Juel Taylor plays with all the expected tropes to evoke a very ‘70s feeling pulpy blaxploitation caper, but with the added sci-fi twist, the film is elevated to become something else entirely.
There are nods to fried chicken, grape drinks, and even hair products for black women become a huge part of the story – all tying into a nationwide government conspiracy. Of course, the idea of a sci-fi conspiracy is nothing new, with roots in the likes of 1984, The Manchurian Candidate, and many others.
They Cloned Tyrone adds an interesting twist to the formula though, with a racially charged storyline that’s as much making a political statement as it is drawing on old ‘70s flicks. Thankfully, it’s also just a really entertaining film, and the message fits organically without having to work too hard to find its place.
Boyega puts in a solid performance as the different versions of Fontaine, but Foxx absolutely steals the show as the quick-witted, silver-tongued Slick Charles. He’s got a quip for every occasion and he oozes style. Pimpin’ might not be easy, but Foxx makes it look like an absolute riot. However, don’t overlook Parris either – her performance as Yo-Yo is equal parts funny and heartfelt, as the real Yo-Yo begins to emerge from beneath her street-glam veneer.
Of course, this film is dripping with cool. But it’s more than that – each character is brought to life with a punchy vibrance through their unique costuming.
Slick Charles sports an asymmetrical high-top that only Jamie Foxx could pull off, coupled with all the usual pimp trimmings – a purple felt suit and faux leather coat complete the look, while also leaving no doubts as to his aspirations. He’s at the top of his game and only intent on climbing higher.
Fontaine sports a grimier, grittier look, complete with a full set of gold teeth in a style that you can only imagine as full ghetto hustler.
Yo-Yo is a vibrant mix of yellow faux fur, leopard print, and thigh-high boots – all intent on catching the eye of her customers.
What’s nice about these obvious typecastings is that they’re almost entirely up-ended by the film’s finale, with each of the main characters showing a much deeper characterisation than you might be led to believe.
So, where the style and tone of They Cloned Tyrone sets up a slick pulpy ‘70s flick, the substance of its story smashes right through the stereotypes.
They Cloned Tyrone is certainly provocative, with a genre-bending tale of social satire that couldn’t be more prescient. It’s a thoroughly entertaining film, too, with a tight script, funk soundtrack, and some great editing. They Cloned Tyrone isn’t just a sci-fi film. It’s not just a blaxploitation film, either. By smashing the two together and picking out the most socially-aware parts of both, director Juel Taylor has created an entertaining vehicle for a thought-provoking tale that will hopefully reach a lot more people thanks to its hard-hitting style and quirky visuals.
They Cloned Tyrone is available to stream now on Netflix.