THEY CLONED TYRONE (2023) is a surprising movie. It plays like a 70s Blaxploitation film with a clever sci-fi element reminiscent of THE CABIN IN THE WOODS. I didn’t love this one, but I liked it a lot, and damn, like I said, it’s surprising in how it mashes so many elements together to create something I’d never seen it before. For that alone, it got my respect.
The movie starts with Fontaine (John Boyega), a drug dealer in a depressed Black community haunted by the death of his younger brother. He gets mixed up with pimp Slick Charles (Jaimie Foxx) and sex worker Yo-Yo (the stellar Teyonah Parris) when a strange and impossible event sets them on a course to uncover a bizarre conspiracy. To save their community, they’ll need to figure out the system opposing them and use brains and muscle to defeat it.
Otherwise, I don’t want to say too much, as this is one of those movies that’s best discovered knowing as little as possible. At first, we’re given what seems to be a Blaxploitation film, shot to look as 70s and gritty as possible, with Black stereotypes that are frankly uncomfortable and also uncomfortably familiar from historical depiction in film. As the sci-fi element becomes exposed, the movie veers off into some weird territory.
The allusions to the forces that keep poverty-stricken people in poverty are obvious, treading into satire territory and leading to comparisons with films like SORRY TO BOTHER YOU (a movie about capitalism that I love, love, love). Still, though the payoff didn’t quite hold together for me–the explanation exactly why all the bad stuff in the story was happening. Nonetheless, with its distinct style by director Juel Teng, terrific performances, mashup of numerous Blaxploitation and sci-fi media, and overall punch, THEY CLONED TYRONE is a nice, provocative surprise, and definitely something to check out if you’re sick of the usual fare.