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  • Writer's pictureS.J.

'They Cloned Tyrone' Review: John Boyega, Teyonah Parris & Jamie Foxx Unearth A Conspiracy

Teyonah Parris, Jamie Foxx and John Boyega holding guns in a hallway

The clones are attacking and at it again. Time is irrelevant and fashion is all over the place in director and co-writer Juel Taylor's delirious sci-fi comedy They Cloned Tyrone, co-written with Tony Rettenmaier. Fontaine (John Boyega) is a low-level drug dealer whose ''line of work'' soon costs him his life, though he soon seemingly re-emerges and thinks that he sees his doppelgänger. Soon after he finds himself in an unexpected company of sex worker Yo-Yo (Teyonah Parris) and her pimp Slick Charles (Jamie Foxx), the latter being surprised to see Fontaine alive since he thought him to be dead. Trying to figure out what happened, the trio then stumble upon a government-led conspiracy which revolves around cloning technology and introduces them to a shady guy named Nixon (Kiefer Sutherland).

Right away, the opening 20 minutes of the film are extremely energetic and manage to immediately set up the vibe and approach that Taylor and Rettenmaier are going for with their storytelling mechanics. The dialogue has a distinct rhythm and sense of urgency that serves as a hook for a viewer as it has a nice balance of humour with plenty of funny lines and simple, yet effective world-building that has you intrigued to see what is actually happening in places that we don't see.

Taylor's direction features relentlessness that supports the script's energy, whether that is with aggressive camera moves or rowdy performances by his cast who all showed up ready to play. Boyega, Parris and Foxx bounce off each other really well throughout, each of them bringing something different into the group's dynamic. Foxx especially is really electric in his role as he delivers Slick Charles' vibrant banter in a memorable way while also creating a really unpredictable guy with help from costumes and accessories (designed by Francine Jamison-Tanchuk) that he wears. Excellent production design by Franco-Giacomo Carbone is clearly able to immerse the cast as local shops, homes and experimental spaces are all defined by depth, specificity and purposefulness.

Some of that direction and design does sadly get watered-down, however, because of how the movie looks. It's hard to point out with confidence the exact moment where things went wrong but seeing how much effort cinematographer Ken Seng put into the placement of lights in frames and how colours don't pop as they should, the film's colour grading has seemingly sucked out a lot of life from it. It's often fluctuating between dim scenes in season eight of 'Game Of Thrones' to the washed-out look of something like Netflix's other algorithm-feeding 'To All The Boys' or 'The Kissing Booth' films, and neither of them is a good comparison.

When you also add what looks to be a distracting amount of (digital?) grain and a repetitive middle 40 minutes that drag the pace down, you leave a lot on the table considering that you have a story that is really twisty and entertaining, plus actors who are all delivering at a high level. Why wouldn't you want us to properly see what is really happening?

Smileys: Story, Jamie Foxx, production design

Frowneys: Colouring, pacing

Will Yo-Yo come back?


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