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They Cloned Tyrone review: Quick-fire sci-fi comedy is a gutsy debut

Jamie Foxx, John Boyega and Teyonah Parris headline this new Netflix original

They Cloned Tyrone - (L to R) John Boyega as Fontaine, Teyonah Parris as Yo-Yo and Jamie Foxx (Producer) as Slick Charles in They Cloned Tyrone. (Parrish Lewis/Netflix)
They Cloned Tyrone - (L to R) John Boyega as Fontaine, Teyonah Parris as Yo-Yo and Jamie Foxx (Producer) as Slick Charles in They Cloned Tyrone. (Parrish Lewis/Netflix)
  • 🎞️ When is They Cloned Tyrone out: On Netflix from Friday, 21 July

  • ⭐️ Our rating: 3/5

  • 🎭 Who's in it? John Boyega, Teyonah Parris, David Alan Grier, J Alphonse Nicholson, Tamberla Perry, Eric Robinson Jnr, Kiefer Sutherland, Jamie Foxx

  • 👍 What we liked: High-octane performances and a gutsy attitude make for unexpected fun.

  • 👎 What we didn't: With too many loose ends and no clear targets, there’s little sense of direction.

  • 📖 What's it about? Tyrone is a drug dealer in a run-down corner of the 70s who gets gunned down by a rival. When a local pimp sees him alive and well the following day, oblivious of the shooting they set out to solve the mystery, which takes them down a rabbit hole literally underneath the struggling community.

  • ⏱️ How long is it? 2 hours 2 minutes

They Cloned Tyrone is what happens when Invasion Of The Body Snatchers meets Groundhog Day. It's the ambitious directorial debut from Creed II writer Juel Taylor that brings so many genres to the mix that some inevitably lose their flavour.

Despite its shortcomings, Taylor’s delivered a quick-fire comedy/thriller which plays out like one of its jokes (“a pimp, a whore and a drug dealer walk into a bar.”)

They Cloned Tyrone - (L to R) Teyonah Parris as Yo-Yo, Jamie Foxx as Slick Charles and John Boyega as Fontaine in They Cloned Tyrone. (Parrish Lewis/Netflix)
They Cloned Tyrone - (L to R) Teyonah Parris as Yo-Yo, Jamie Foxx as Slick Charles and John Boyega as Fontaine in They Cloned Tyrone. (Parrish Lewis/Netflix)

The pimp is Slick Charlie (Jamie Foxx), who lives up to his name with his clothes and constant reminders of his biggest claim to fame: winning the 1995 International Players Ball Pimp Of The Year Award.

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The whore is the smart and resourceful YoYo (WandaVision's Teyonah Parris) whose banter with Charlie is close to an art form. And there’s drug dealer Tyrone (John Boyega), initially the real one and then a clone, who is destined to start every day in exactly the same way and fight the same rivals for his turf. They’re the film’s biggest assets – three powerhouse actors with Foxx especially on stellar form.

Watch a trailer for They Cloned Tyrone

This motley crew set out to discover what’s going on beneath the surface of their down-and-out community. It's one where everybody eats the same brand of fried chicken, glugs down the same bottles of clearly alcoholic soda and uses the same products on their hair. Is it all connected? It is.

But, despite the fun created by the sci-fi/horror/comedy/blaxploitation mix, there’s no clear sense of the film’s targets. And its loose ends mean that we, like the narrative, are left hanging in the air, having to draw our own conclusions about who “they” are, what they’re up to and why. It means any attempts at genuine satire are toothless.

They Cloned Tyrone - (L-R) Jamie Foxx (Producer) as Slick Charles, Teyonah Parris as Yo-Yo and John Boyega as Fontaine in They Cloned Tyrone. (Parrish Lewis/Netflix)
They Cloned Tyrone - (L-R) Jamie Foxx (Producer) as Slick Charles, Teyonah Parris as Yo-Yo and John Boyega as Fontaine in They Cloned Tyrone. (Parrish Lewis/Netflix)

The poverty and lack of hope in the town — so essential to the story — is vividly created, from the gloomy lighting and graffiti to the background characters who are already drunk by noon. And when its extraordinary events appear on local TV, the grainy footage is on the nail in evoking the 70s.

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It’s gutsy, energetic and refreshingly unexpected. But it's also frustrating, lacking in direction and bite. But They Cloned Tyrone has a winning combination of high-octane cast and sheer hutzpah in doing something different. That’s what makes it stand out.

They Cloned Tyrone is on Netflix from 21 July.