They Cloned Tyrone
Photograph: Parrish Lewis/Netflix
  • Film
  • Recommended


They Cloned Tyrone

5 out of 5 stars

John Boyega flexes his versatility in a reality-bending thriller fuelled by Black scepticism


Time Out says

Juel Taylor’s hilariously unhinged directorial debut plays out like a big ‘we know what you think about us’ public service announcement from the Black consciousness. A stylish conspiracy thriller, it finds its footing in The Glen, a Southern poster town for African-American disenfranchisement, filled with shoddy liquor stores, Tupac Shakur conspiracy theorists and a homeless fortune teller called Frog.

The opening sequence introduces the complex character of Fontaine (John Boyega). He’s a local drug dealer who makes a concerted effort to fit in subtle acts of kindness alongside the day-to-day kerfuffle of his criminal capers. Soon he’s careering a car into a street rival, an event that leads to him being killed for the first time.

Rather than staring at the walls of a pine box, Fontaine wakes up in his bedroom without a bullet wound in sight or any recollection of the encounter that cost him his life. But why? And how? The mystery unfolds as Fontaine makes his usual nightly rounds to debtors. He ends up on the doorstep of wise-cracking Slick Charles (Jamie Foxx), a pimp with enough minks in his wardrobe to put PETA on high alert. Along with his Nancy Drew obsessed streetworker Yo-Yo (Candyman’s Teyonah Parris), the pair recount the cold-blooded motel shootout that Tyrone fell victim to. The trio’s madcap energy of impromptu karaoke sessions and sharp banter means that you’re laughing even when you’re not quite sure what’s going on. 

They Cloned Tyrone revels in that ambiguity, colouring in the lines between truth and conspiracy. Its grainy 35mm aesthetic channels the spirit of Blaxploitation classics like Shaft (1971) and Superfly (1972). 

This hilariously unhinged sci-fi taps into the conspiracy theorist in us all

Taylor ingeniously front-loads the story with tropes and archetypes that could form a bingo card of the stereotypical expectations of the Black experience: fried chicken, grape Kool-Aid, perm cream and raucous church services. But to quote one of Foxx’s many memorable one-liners: ‘This ain’t no missionary position, vanilla shit.’ The ragtag Scooby-Doo collective’s quest for answers leads them to an underground laboratory where they discover the unsettling truth. 

Wildly funny, They Cloned Tyrone’s satirical unpacking of the Black community’s cornerstones – food, music and religion – thrillingly and audaciously tackles the uncomfortable idea that outsiders gain more from these institutions than the Black community itself. Far from a clone of its Blaxploitation predecessors, Taylor’s exhilarating debut taps into the conspiracy theorist within us all.

Streaming on Netflix worldwide now.

Cast and crew

  • Director:Juel Taylor
  • Screenwriter:Juel Taylor, Tony Rettenmaier
  • Cast:
    • John Boyega
    • Jamie Foxx
    • Teyonah Parris
    • Kiefer Sutherland
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