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‘They Cloned Tyrone’: A lesson in Afro-surrealism

The 2023 released film “They Cloned Tyrone” takes an Afro-surrealist approach to Black cinema
“They Cloned Tyrone” – Left to right, John Boyega as Fontaine, Teyonah Parris as Yo-Yo, Jamie Foxx, producer, as Slick Charles and Kiefer Sutherland as Nixon in “They Cloned Tyrone.” Cr. Parrish Lewis/Netflix © 2023.

With movies like “Boyz n the Hood and “Selma” being created almost every year since the ’90s, Black films have become exhausting and repetitive. It seems as if every movie is a retelling of traumatic events or another story about the “hood.” 

As a black man, it is difficult to keep watching directors profit from the same genre of movies again and again with no end. 

Juel Taylor’s 2023 “They Cloned Tyrone is a refreshing break from these films. Taylor chooses to take an Afro-surrealist approach to Black cinema, drawing similarities to films like “Get Out, Sorry to Bother You and Donald Glover’s critically acclaimed TV-series “Atlanta.”  

Afro-surrealism means to create worlds that expand beyond our reality in unusual and absurd ways, focusing on the Black aesthetic and experiences, according to The Medium. 

“They Cloned Tyrone” focuses on the exploitation of modern-day Black people through a fictional, surreal story about a drug dealer, pimp and prostitute who attempt to uncover a government conspiracy keeping them trapped in their neighborhood.

Taylor does an amazing job of keeping her message clear and interesting despite a two-hour run time. Each plot point gives you an unsettling feeling of familiarity and forces you to connect the movie’s events with historical events. 

Whether it is the war on drugs, the crack epidemic or the Tuskegee experiments, everything can be connected to the outrageous yet similar events of the film. 

As the audience, you cannot help but feel engaged as you question each and every moment of the movie. “If it is in everything, is it in that?” You will find yourself asking, “Am I falling victim at this very moment?”

These confusing but exciting questions keep you on the edge of your seat every second of the film. Intertwining fiction and reality to the point where the audience has no choice but to reevaluate their own actions and history is a special skill, and Taylor has mastered it.

The casting of “They Cloned Tyrone” is near perfect, only falling short in failing to recruit, in my opinion, an all-time great of Afro-surrealism, LaKeith Stanfield.

With his track record of being in Afro-surrealistic media like the mentioned “Get Out,” “Sorry to Bother You” and “Atlanta,” it seemed like a given for Stanfield to make an appearance in the film, and I was slightly disappointed he was not included. 

Luckily, great performances from Jamie Foxx, Teyona Parris and John Boyega make up for Stanfield’s absence. 

“They Cloned Tyrone” – Jamie Foxx, producer, as Slick Charles in “They Cloned Tyrone.” Cr. Parrish Lewis/Netflix © 2023.

Foxx, as the pimp Slick Charles, executes his role with an enjoyable balance of the erratic and comedic behavior of pimps while maintaining the serious nature of the film. This allows moments of vulnerability and self-awareness where the audience is able to understand his motives and way of life. 

“They Cloned Tyrone” – John Boyega as Fontaine in “They Cloned Tyrone.” Cr. Parrish Lewis/Netflix © 2023.

Boyega plays a multitude of characters in the movie, but the focus is on his main part as the drug dealer Fontaine. He maintains the classic tough, macho-man demeanor of a stereotypical drug dealer. 

Boyega is able to portray the erratic and frightening lack of emotions of a stoic individual. His performance is a compelling one, especially for someone who is not known for his roles outside of the “Star Wars” series. 

“They Cloned Tyrone” – Left to right, Jamie Foxx, producer, as Slick Charles, Teyonah Parris as Yo-Yo and John Boyega as Fontaine in “They Cloned Tyrone.” Cr. Parrish Lewis/Netflix © 2023.

The real breakout star of the film is Parris, who was not on my radar prior to this film. The plot attempts to reduce her role to a prostitute with unrealistic dreams of becoming a doctor. Parris resists the plot’s attempts and gives a performance I cannot help but remember when critiquing this film.

“They Cloned Tyrone” is a film that challenges the audience to reevaluate Black culture as an idea in a surreal way that can come off as confusing, but if you dare to read between the lines you will be pleasantly surprised.

Christian Hutson can be reached at [email protected] or [email protected].

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  • L

    Lisa Medeiros // Oct 14, 2023 at 4:56 pm

    This is incredible Christian! I am very proud of you.

  • M

    Mr. Fritzen // Oct 3, 2023 at 8:39 pm

    This is beautifully written Christian! One of my best students in Piano class in the senior year of Highschool. Along with his talented friend Miguel Pena! Bravo Christian Hutson! Keep making your family proud yung killa!