As anyone who saw the brief teaser for this movie during the Netflix “TUDUM” event in late 2022, this movie was undoubtedly on many radars. Having star-studded leads like Jamie Foxx, Teyonah Paris, and John Boyega in a Blaxploitation comedy sci-fi satire mix in the modern day, what’s not to love? Truthfully, only time would tell what the reception would be until the movie started to hit the platform on its July 21st release date. Something that sounds as ambitious as this would almost seem impossible to nail; however, this movie proved me wrong.

Following the life of Fontaine (John Boyega), the movie centers on his life as a dealer in his neighborhood, otherwise known as the Glen, solidifying his status as the only dealer for his block. The movie shows the typical cycle Fontaine (Boyega) would go through, getting lotto tickets, pouring up Frog (Leon Lamar) as he goes on rambling until he runs over Crutches (Shariff Miller) and starts a chain reaction of events to follow with Crutches’ boss and Fontaine’s rival, Isaac (J. Alphonso Nicholson). This intro into Fontaine helps to establish the Glenn through its citizens and beautiful shots of the mundane but lively city. This event leads us to meet the two other central characters of the movie, Slick Charles (Jamie Foxx) and Yoyo (Teyonah Paris). As Yoyo (Paris) runs out of Slick’s (Foxx) apartment, Fontaine (Boyega) comes in to look for payment for the drugs Slick bought off him. Finding a container amount from Slick, he runs off to his car, where things take a turn. Isaac and Charles bump into Fontaine’s car in the parking lot and start letting off shots that eventually would kill Fontaine. You would think he is dead now; however, he wakes up as if nothing happened. He continues back on the cycle of events that occurred the day prior and goes back to Slick’s house. Like most everyone watching it, Slick is confused about how Fontaine (Boyega) is still walking around alive as if he didn’t get murdered last night. This conversation about the events ropes Yoyo in as she also saw the incident happen, and they begin there, as Yoyo puts it, “Nancy Drew,” investigating what’s happening in the neighborhood. This leads them to find an underground lab where more questions are raised. Within the lab, before Slick shoots one of the scientists there, Fontaine (Boyega) ends up seeing his own dead body from the other night, which starts the journey to find out who is making clones and why.

The movie’s writing, done by Juel Taylor and Tony Rettenmaier, kicks into overdrive as the world-building of the Glen done at the beginning of the film comes back into play in the most prominent way. The commercials for the fried chicken restaurant (aptly named Got Damn Chicken) and the perm brand are an integral part of not only the satirical moments of the film but also the developing story of how this government agency controls the minds of the black citizens of the Glen to be stuck in this endless cycle and to be turned into clones. In the best way, I can say it’s every playground theory I’ve heard either in school or a family reunion by a random family member finding its way to the big screen. The storytelling done to communicate this plot is unique as it relies on all the citizens of the Glen, including our titular characters, to get down to the root of the situation at play. Even the way the film’s environment is shown from the ’70s to 80s styled fashion clashing with modern-day technological advances like iPhones and Bitcoin help add to the city’s odd nature and the overarching narrative.

The acting from everyone in the film is top-notch, especially its lead John Boyega, as Fontaine. The range of emotions this character goes through during this movie is something not all actors can pull off. However, Boyega prevails at it. Teyonah Paris as Yoyo and Jamie Foxx as Slick Charles, while being the film’s comedic relief, also help push the narrative along without feeling like throwaway characters and performances that anyone else could’ve done. Even more minor roles like Isaac, played by J. Alphonso Nicholson, and Nixon, played by Kiefer Sutherland, help keep me hooked on how this story plays out.

The ending of the film shows the root of the government’s meddling in the Glen and other cities caused by an older (actual) version of Fontaine who is motivated after his young brother’s death to police brutality to push an idea that “assimilation is better than annihilation” spills into the lives of not only the citizens of the Glen but the world at large as at the end of the film clones have been freed from the facilities to walk amongst everyone else. The direction of this movie and its plot points, done by Juel Taylor in his directorial debut, is excellent to watch. The movie has feelings of influence from Blaxploitation films and other pieces of black satire like Sorry to Bother You (2018), Black Dynamite (2009), and The Boondocks, but marries to create his unique world.

While this ending wraps up the story on the Glen, it opens a new bag of worms within the end credits scene. It shows a new clone version of Fontaine (Boyega) driving through a similar neighborhood and finding out about the clones with his home boys (which leads to an excellent needle drop of a reworked version of “Tyrone” by Erykah Badu for the actual credits).

They Cloned Tyrone is an afro-surrealistic sci-fi satire journey with outstanding comedic elements, acting performances, and a more dynamic story. One can only honestly know what Juel Taylor will think about what comes next with this movie’s universe.


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