Movie Review - They Cloned Tyrone

Though nothing is more agonizing than re-enacting the calamity that was the final chapter of the trilogy in the new Star Wars movie, one thing must be said: John Boyega deserved far better in so many ways. With some space behind him, it is evident that he was one of the few bright spots in the experience, and he has subsequently gone on to act in projects that are considerably more befitting of his skills.

Whether it was his performance in Steve McQueen’s brilliant Small Axe series or, more recently, his supporting role in last year’s beautiful action epic The Woman King, Boyega has shown to be a daring performer who adds innumerable advantages to whatever work he is a part of.

They Cloned Tyrone Trailer



This is also true in They Cloned Tyrone, a Netflix mystery thriller that pays homage to both Blaxploitation films and others, such as John Carpenter’s classic They Live, on a thematic level. Though this film isn’t nearly as incisive and acute as many of the references it draws from, with one final revelation almost dooming an experience prone to dragging, Boyega’s presence and an often snappy script keep it entertaining. While it is neither the first nor even the most mysterious film of the year in terms of storyline, it is nevertheless one that is best enjoyed with as little information about what really occurs in it as possible.

The trailer’s fundamental plot sets out most of the broad strokes in a way that allows for lots of conclusions about what is going on, and the title implies that cloning will be involved. The characters involved in this conspiracy are the lonesome hustler Fontaine (Boyega), the snarky pimp Slick Charles (Jamie Foxx), and the street-smart sex worker Yo-Yo (Teyonah Parris), who form an unlikely trio to figure out what’s going on by literally plunging into the depths beneath the city via various lifts they discover hidden in unexpected places.

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Screenshot 83On the surface, this appears to be a winning notion that will allow brilliant performers to experiment with their roles. This is mostly accurate as we witness the different bands of sleuths get up to various hijinks as they learn some terrible secrets are woven into the very fabric of their life. Some scenes are reminiscent of the newly released series I’m a Virgo in how it views advertising and materialism as deserving of skepticism, but in a more regressive fashion. However, that is hardly the most significant factor preventing the film from being as good as it may have been.

The problems arise throughout the creation of the conspiracy as we accompany our heroes from location to location, learning various nuggets of knowledge along the way in a manner that might feel tiresome rather than fascinating. There will be some unexpected turns, but it will fall short of being as daring as it could have been. It gets perilously near to sounding like a sequence of “and then” lines in a tale, except that each item sounds identical to what came before it. The films from which this one draws seemed lively and surprising, something it doesn’t always achieve despite the excellent performance of its performers.

When it finally kicks up, it’s great, but the road there might have been more dynamic. Boyega is the one thing that can save the film at its weakest moments. No matter what scenario his character finds himself in, the actor’s presence is difficult to ignore. When Fontaine is out smoking in his car, lit by pink neon lights in a way that reminded me of another Netflix release, the more patient and potent Copenhagen Cowboy, Boyega just controls the camera. The power he possesses as a performer, communicating volumes with only his eyes, or the way he will prepare himself for the violence to follow draws us in at this moment.

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Screenshot 84Even if his co-stars are all excellent, it is Boyega who shines once more. He always rises to the situation, no matter what the scene requires of him. He is the sort of performer who never overacts, conveying the anguish in quite as much as in an outcry at an unexpectedly bleak discovery when Fontaine reveals a particularly terrible reality. Both the film’s humor and emotion rely on his more restrained portrayal, which grounds everything in the character’s everyday attempts to live.

The tale may become a touch wobbly once what was initially more of a fun takes a darker turn and the stakes become personal for Fontaine. Even when the picture tosses in a mostly needless and somewhat foolish surprise that drags everything to a standstill, it is Boyega who keeps things moving. What nearly derails it is not that it makes a tremendous swing, which may have helped the tale if it had arrived earlier, but that it feels bolted on at the end rather than baked into the full picture.

We receive a lot of exposition that glosses over any complexities far too quickly when what is going on could have been examined more thoroughly. That we are still committed is a credit to Boyega’s ability to create pictures that are larger than the sum of their parts. With They Cloned Tyrone being on the better end of a career with so much promise ahead, it cements his place as one of those performers who makes whatever production he is involved in one worth checking out.