Most of the general population will associate the weekend of July 21, 2023 with the cultural phenomenon known as Barbieheimer (or Barbenheimer). Who can blame them though? When Christopher Nolan and Greta Gerwig drop incredible films on the same day, you're bound to have some psychological bias toward them.
Well, I am here today to challenge that. Allow me to introduce to you, if you haven't heard of it yet, another fantastic film released on that same fateful day. I'm referring to the sci-fi comedy directed by Juel Taylor, They Cloned Tyrone.
Coming out direct to streaming on Netflix may have hampered the widespread awareness of this film, which I can only deem as a huge mistake. I love being able to easily access the movie, don't get me wrong, but this is the kind of movie that needs to be experienced with a crowd. Then again maybe it’s best to avoid releasing a movie in theaters during the Barbieheimer craze.
They Cloned Tyrone focuses on Fontaine (John Boyega), a drug dealer in a neighborhood called “the Glen.” While on his way to collect money from one of his customers, a man by the name of Slick Charles (Jamie Foxx), Fontaine is fatally shot by an opposing drug dealer trying to encroach on his territory. The next morning Fontaine wakes up in bed with no recollection of the events and much to Slick Charles' shock, shows up again to collect his money. Slick Charles along with the assistance of one of his sex workers, Yo-Yo (Teyonah Parris), begins to attempt to unravel the mysterious circumstances involving Fontaine's untimely demise combined with his surprising reappearance. Things get wild when a secret elevator to an underground laboratory is discovered, uncovering some interesting developments taking place in the Glen.
First and foremost, actors Boyega, Foxx and Paris are a to die for trio. All three of them are phenomenal. Boyega delivers what is my favorite performance of his to-date. While he is impressive in the latest Star Wars trilogy as Finn, superb in films such as The Woman King, Detroit, and Attack the Block, not to mention Steve McQueen's Small Axe series, this is his real showing up and showing out moment. His delivery, emotion, and the gravitas he gives at pivotal moments in the film are above and beyond his prior roles. His Fontaine character is integral to the thematic elements of the film and it wouldn't succeed without Boyega's incredibly attentive performance.
Next up on the list of fantastic work is Jamie Foxx's hilarious portrayal of Slick Charles. Foxx probably has the hardest job in the film, with lines that sometimes run akin to limericks or tongue twisters. Yet, he rattles them off with such ease, and energy, that you can't help but be engrossed in his character. Also feeding off of his performance, and providing her own energy into the mix, is an astounding piece of work from Parris as Yo-Yo. Similar to Slick Charles, Yo-Yo has some incredibly well-written lines along with a character arc that has to succeed in order for the emotional infrastructure of the film to work. Parris pulls off her Yo-Yo character with flying colors, elevating the stakes of the film while simultaneously exemplifying the quality of Juel Taylor and Tony Rettenmaier's script.
Now speaking of the script, this is some tight writing. I mean that in a description of quality way, and also in a this movie is crisp and delivers in a big way in two hours way. All three of the main characters have such potent lines, that are written in an easily digestible yet subtly complex way that you're living for the next moment. But also the supporting characters all have some moment of glory that helps add in more of the comedic tones of the film. An especially memorable moment is a unique rant by Big Moss (Eric B. Robinson Jr), Fontaine's right hand man. After Fontaine discovers the secret elevator to be missing, Big Moss sheds light on the importance of water to help a seemingly dehydrated and confused Fontaine 'get right.' While simple at its core and while reading this it may feel like a "you have to be there" kind of line. But the elegant simplicity, along with the camaraderie of the cast pushes this into a hilarious moment that accents the thematic elements of the film. Surrounded by nefarious plots and secret experiments, this is a great, humorous reminder that Fontaine's associates are some of the most normal people on the planet, establishing a great duality of stakes between the populous and this experimenting body.
Then of course there's the incredibly creative social commentary embedded within the heart of the film.
Here's the part where there are spoilers aplenty.
Through Fontaine and Slick Charles' discovery that they're both clones and the introduction of a "caretaker" type of henchman Nixon (Kiefer Sutherland), it is revealed that the clones serve a broader purpose. In a solid twist, Nixon explains that the clones, specifically Fontaine and Charles, are tools to dissuade the gentrification of the Glen. A drug dealer and a pimp are constantly reintroduced into the neighborhood to systematically lower the value of the surrounding area, preventing companies from coming in or new real estate developments. If this gentrification were to happen, then Nixon and his employers would quickly lose their control group for their experiments. Now this is one hell of a metaphor for not only the racial inequality across the United States but also the consistent exploitation of the Black population. While it may be a tad excessive with its secret underground laboratory and the idea of using clones might be uneven at times, the overall theme is potent. It's delivered with an intense reveal and most importantly, the message doesn't detract from the overall entertainment of the film.
Building on top of this twist is the finale where the original Fontaine, an older human version of Boyega's character, is revealed to be the mastermind. A geneticist for this secret project, the original Fontaine explains that the killing of his little brother by a police officer sparked the motivation for his experiments. But instead of these mind-controlling substances being the end game, it's revealed that Fontaine wants to whitewash the Black population by slowly turning everyone literally white through generational breeding. This twist kind of lost me for a split second but once again the thematic message is consistent with the film and it doesn't overextend itself to realize it. Turning the plot on its head and into a twisted "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" allegory for racial inequality and injustice was something I was not expecting. Not to this degree.
Not to mention, one of the most powerful moments in the film is the original Fontaine describing the death of his little brother, mentioning that he washed the dried blood from his body and describes it as washing the black off of him. Ultimately, the prowess of the script along with the performances of the main three actors welds the thematic elements of the film with the enjoyable and comedic natures, resulting in what was an incredibly entertaining and powerful movie.
It's fresh hop season! I hope everyone has been able to enjoy this most wonderful time of the year and go out and grab some beautifully hopped brews. There have been some exquisite fresh hopped beers I've had but the one that takes the cake, and goes great with They Cloned Tyrone is Stoup Brewing's Fresh Hop Fiend with Simcoe hops. Most of these fresh hopped beers are clones of established recipes with a dose of fresh hops to deliver some powerhouse fresh flavor. I'm really focusing on this whole clone aspect with this pairing. Stoup's 2022 version of the Fresh Hop Fiend was as solid as I could've wanted from a freshie, but this year's version with Simcoe fresh hops was astounding. It was bright, fresh, and overflowing with great floral aroma and flavor while quenching my beer craving unlike any other. I may be a bit biased because I'm a real sucker for a Simcoe-focused brew, but this one really blew my expectations out of the water.