A drug dealer, a pimp and a shady lady walking into a bar could be the start of a hilarious joke or a screwball comedy. They Cloned Tyrone, Juel Taylor’s debut feature, which he wrote with Tony Rettenmaier, is all that and more. That the film’s subliminal text is packed to the rafters with serious issues does not stop it from being all-out entertaining.
They Cloned Tyrone (English)
Director: Juel Taylor
Cast: John Boyega, Teyonah Parris, Jamie Foxx
Runtime: 119 minutes
Storyline: It takes a man living the same day over and over again to be killed to figure out something is off in the pleasant land of Glen
There is the aforementioned drug dealer, Fontaine (John Boyega), who lives with his mum, who is mostly a voice behind a closed door. Slick Charles (Jamie Foxx) is the pimp who owes Fontaine money. Yo-Yo (Teyonah Parris) is one of Charles’ girls.
Fontaine is grieving his little brother, Ronnie, who was shot and killed in a racist attack. Fontaine’s days are predictable as clockwork. He buys a lottery ticket, pours some of his drink into the cup of an old destitute sitting in the sun, who is given to making obscure pronouncements, and heads to Charles’ place for the money owed him. It is only when Fontaine is shot dead by one of his rivals, Isaac (J. Alphonse Nicholson), and still turns up the next day to collect his money from Charles that the trio figure out something is rotten in the state of Glen, the neighbourhood they live in.
It is time to go full-on Nancy Drew as Yo-Yo comments and the three are quickly embroiled in a conspiracy of mammoth proportions which includes clones, mad scientists, a flavour of chicken that makes everyone laugh, a hair product that makes people biddable, DJs playing sinister, suggestible music, churches, and trigger words that turn people into murderous automatons.
The actors have a whale of a time in this smartly subversive sci-fi thriller comedy. The hair and costume choices are fascinating, from Charles’ velvet suit to Yo-Yo’s hair (which plays an important part in the climax) and her green lipstick which jives well with the retro-futuristic vibe. Retro-futurism, incidentally, is an art movement that uses the expectation of scientific developments from the past as a springboard.
Kiefer Sutherland is happily smarmy as Nixon, the government agent who might or might not be behind all the mayhem. There are movie references, but not so many as to become repetitive or lazy. The pop culture references, including the whole Kevin Bacon Hollow Man one and “they are Clockwork Oranging us!” and Nancy Drew, are organic and owned.
The bitterest pill is gleefully gulped down if served up in a sausage, or with a chocolate coating and that is precisely what clever Mr Taylor and his merry crew have achieved with this thoroughly enjoyable film.
They Cloned Tyrone is currently streaming on Netflix