While there’s much to admire, They Cloned Tyrone (2023) is an uneven, perplexing piece of work. A science fictional mash-up echoing the sensibilities of Boots Riley and Jordan Peele, the film takes place in an impoverished neighborhood called the Glen where most criminal enterprises are managed by tough, no-nonsense Fontaine (John Boyega). One night after he goes to collect money from a slippery pimp named Slick Charles (Jamie Foxx), Fontaine is gunned down in a parking lot. This leads to a shocking surprise for Charles the next day when he and one of his prostitutes, Yo-Yo (Teyonah Parris), receive a visit from the suddenly alive Fontaine. Something deeply weird is going on in the Glen, and the unlikely trio bands together to investigate, ultimately uncovering an outrageous conspiracy.
They Cloned Tyrone opens with tantalizing intrigue, setting the stage nicely for the mystery-solving plot to follow. Its initial tone, backed by a groovy funk score, is a strange mix of bickering humor and Twilight Zone-y dread, set againsts a muzzy blaxploitation backdrop. It’s difficult vibe to put your finger on, although Boyega, Foxx, and Parris have a great dynamic, delivering terrific performances. Ultimately, the film’s second half loses a handle on pacing, especially during an intercut sequence when Fontaine learns the truth while Charles and Yo-Yo face off against the unsubtly named Nixon (Kiefer Sutherland), a good-old-boy fixer working for the big bad. This grinding wind-down, coupled with muddy delivery of the social commentary, makes for a slightly off-putting film that doesn’t reach the incisive level of Riley or Peele. But it’s still an interesting, offbeat film whose director, Juel Taylor, shows considerable promise.