"They Cloned Tyrone"
ManOfTheCenturyMovie Film ‘They Cloned Tyrone’ Review: This Gender-Bending Satire Puts a Blaxploitation Twist on ‘Russian Doll’

‘They Cloned Tyrone’ Review: This Gender-Bending Satire Puts a Blaxploitation Twist on ‘Russian Doll’

"They Cloned Tyrone"

Turn on “They Cloned Tyrone” at a random moment and you could be forgiven for thinking you were watching a faithful remake of a Blaxploitation classic. In an early scene, old-school pimp Slick Charles (Jamie Foxx) struts around a seedy motel wearing a suit whose ridiculousness is matched only by his haircut. 70s funk plays in the background as he tries to convince his top earner Yo-Yo (Teyonah Paris) to keep playing tricks for him. As he explains that she’s ready to move on to bigger things, the dialogue could be ripped straight from “Coffy” or “Foxy Brown”—until he mentions Bitcoin.

Yo-Yo, who earned her nickname because she keeps coming back after threatening to quit, is convinced the blockchain revolution will be the golden parachute that gets her out of sex work. Ignoring the holes in her financial logic, the scene is a perfect encapsulation of the bizarre tonal cocktail that makes “They Cloned Tyrone” so funny. The directorial debut of “Creed II” screenwriter Juel Taylor ostensibly takes place in the present, but takes all its stylistic cues from 1970s cinema. Add in the fact that the plot revolves around futuristic cloning technology, and you’re left with a whiplash-inducing good time that will leave you constantly looking at the calendar.

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Tyrone Fontaine (John Boyega) has more than enough trouble on his hands. Onslaught from rival gangs and increasingly flimsy products threaten to derail his small drug empire, and it’s increasingly difficult to collect the money everyone owes him in a reasonable amount of time. So when the 1995 Players Ball pimp of the year tries to stiff his crew with a coke deal, he decides to make an example of him.

Fontaine heads to the latest flea motel Slick Charles is using as an office and finds the pimp full of excuses as to why he can’t pay. But Fontaine doesn’t have it. He shakes it off and leaves with the pimp’s emergency cash supply, only to be killed when a rival gang ambushes him on his way home. Gory deaths are an inevitable occupational hazard in Fontaine’s work, but the real surprise comes when he wakes up in his bed the next day as if nothing had happened.

The reborn Fontaine doesn’t remember last night’s events, so he repeats exactly the same morning routine before attempting to collect his money from Charles and Yo-Yo. But they remember the murder vividly — and the only thing worse than seeing a ghost is seeing a ghost you owe a lot of drug money to.

Attempts to look into Fontaine’s apparent death lead them to a secret laboratory hidden beneath a fried chicken joint that suggests they’re just pawns in a conspiracy that goes way beyond the streets. Armed with the knowledge that Fontaine cannot be (permanently) killed, the unlikely friends begin tossing his body into the line of fire-and then repeating the same day over and over again-as they try to figure out who is hiding beneath their quarter.

The chemistry between the three leads is infectious: Jamie Foxx’s laughable pimp persona reminds us that the man is a national treasure, and Boyega dutifully plays his hard-nosed straight man to great comedic effect. Parris rounds out the trio with a wildly funny performance as Yo-Yo, embodying the hooker with the occasional forgetfulness needed to lock horns with Foxx and enough street smarts to avoid becoming a caricature. The winning cast allows Taylor to capitalize on the formula by which the Coen brothers have made their careers: watching lovable idiots investigate a mystery they’re definitely not qualified to solve is always a blast.

In addition to its Blaxploitation roots, “They Cloned Tyrone” also shares obvious DNA with some contemporary hits, namely genre-bending social satires like “Sorry to Bother You” and time-loop sagas like “Russian Doll.” Yet he manages to weave her influences into something that feels consistently fresh without deriving from any of them. Taylor constructs his 70s-tinged vision of a dystopian future with a deadly eye for detail, adding depth to even the most predictable symbolic moments. The film can be read as a metaphor for Hollywood trying to stifle the creativity of black artists, but its very existence is proof that the alleged effort isn’t working.

Grade: B+

“They Cloned Tyrone” will be released in select theaters on Friday, July 14 before streaming on Netflix on Friday, July 21.

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