They Cloned Tyrone is a stylish comedy that uses an intriguing sci-fi premise to build up some surprisingly poignant commentary on racial segregation.
They Cloned Tyrone opens with a very simple premise, but thanks to the film’s sharp humor and astute commentary on class and race, it quickly morphs into something much more powerful that teaches an important lesson. When drug dealer Fontaine (John Boyega) turns up to collect his payment from regular client Slick Charles (Jamie Foxx), both of their lives turn upside down forever – because Charles had watched Fontaine get himself killed just hours earlier. With no memory of ever having died, Fontaine leads an investigation into his own murder that sheds light on a terrifying conspiracy running all throughout America.
The film isn’t without its flaws, but They Cloned Tyrone is an extremely refreshing and mature take on the genre that knows exactly what it wants to say about the society we live in, and does so without ever sacrificing the comedic soul of the story. They Cloned Tyrone’s biggest strength is the confidence with which it navigates this absurdist narrative, always having fun with its own eccentricity and using this to draw the audience in. It knows that it’s too silly to be taken too seriously, but this never weakens the dramatic effect that’s created through its astute commentary on race and classism.
There’s a very specific balance of comedy and seriousness that’s navigated throughout They Cloned Tyrone, and it’s a combination that could’ve easily ruined the gravity of its message – but never does. Everything feels just as important and/or lighthearted as director Juel Taylor intended.
It’s also impossible to fully praise They Cloned Tyrone without commenting on the cast, who bring these characters to life in a way that very few actors could’ve managed. Boyega brings the dramatic force that’s crucial for manoeuvring through the more serious aspects of this story, while Foxx and Teyonah Parris provide two of their funniest performances, with the latter playing an eccentric character named Yo-Yo. All three actors are given the chance to really let loose and have fun, with their enjoyment of these roles genuinely shining through the screen and making it impossible not to connect with them.
Injecting real-life commentary into a film is always a risky move, especially when the script is already so funny and entertaining. It can easily ruin the tone and bring the audience out of the project, but They Cloned Tyrone is one of the few stories that feels like it couldn’t survive without this added dimension. It’s reminiscent of movies like Get Out and shows like Atlanta with its mature take on social injustice, using absurdism to highlight just how nonsensical and unnecessary these real-world problems are. The film makes you laugh at the wildness of the story before switching up and making you face the truth that it’s much closer to reality than you initially realized.
Unfortunately, They Cloned Tyrone still suffers from plenty of the recurring flaws that tend to appear time and time again in these kinds of straight-to-streaming comedies. While it’s so refreshing to see a Netflix Original that feels like it was made with intention and passion, the story does feel overlong and superficial in some parts, specifically when the characters are going on side quests to uncover the truth about the central mystery. Certain scenes could’ve been removed from the film without damaging the story at all, which leads to an uneven momentum and a slightly-too-easy possibility of the audience clocking out before the narrative really peaks.
Overall, They Cloned Tyrone is an above-average addition to Netflix’s catalogue that borders on great but doesn’t quite get there due to its overlong story and needless complexities that just distract from those aspects that are fantastic. Regardless, it’s a really fun adventure that’s got everything it needs to succeed – and audiences that find themselves particularly invested in socially charged thrillers will probably realize just how much it’s doing right.
They Cloned Tyrone will be available to watch on Netflix from July 21, 2023.