Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Weird, cerebral sci-fi-tinged movies are a dime a dozen. When they actually work (see: Get Out, The Stepford Wives, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), they can become instant-classics that carve themselves permanently into the pop culture mythos. They Cloned Tyrone has high aspirations, written and directed by Juel Taylor (Creed II, Space Jam: A New Legacy) and starring an excellent trio of melanated talent in John Boyega, Jamie Foxx, and Teyonah Parris. Like so many Netflix productions as of late, the film seems to have a solid foundation, coupled with a setup that promises great things. Unfortunately, the sheer amount of missteps, questionable narrative choices, fumbled satire, and a failure to embrace its more outlandish tendencies result in They Cloned Tyrone emerging as a carbon-copy of greater originals.

Mysterious happenings abound almost immediately. Drug dealer Fontaine (Boyega) notices his load this time is a little light due to suave pimp Slick Charles (Foxx) not paying his dues. Charles requests that Fontaine allow him a layaway plan for money replenishment, considering the product provided was not up to standards. In the midst of tracking down 1995 Pimp of the Year Slick Charles, rival Isaac (J. Alphonse Nicholson) and his goons cross paths with Fontaine, then shoot him dead. Nevertheless, Fontaine awakens the next morning to business as usual. He returns to a speechless Slick Charles, demanding money once more. One of Charles’ girls, Yo-Yo (Parris), backs up the story that Fontaine was just shot up. How has he seemingly been resurrected from the dead? The unlikely trio of mismatched characters must team up to find out what is really happening here…

They Cloned Tyrone unspools several different mysteries as it chugs along a bloated two-hours-plus runtime. Obviously, the larger revelations will not be spoiled in this review. What it never does is properly define its sing-song title in a meaningful way, nor is it willing to explore the ramifications of what the events we witness mean for its cast of intriguing characters. A scatter-brained script contentedly throws whatever it wants at the screen to see what sticks. This includes conspiracies about 9/11, The Berenstein Bears, experimentation, brainwashing, and (obviously) cloning. At one point, an underutilized Kiefer Sutherland shows up to spout off the obvious joke about when “a pimp, a ho, and a drug dealer walk into a bar.”

I kept waiting for They Cloned Tyrone to go full-tilt crazy in embracing its looney premise; the movie does eventually make some moves, but something about the execution here feels muted and toned down. These characters have distinct personalities and are filled with A-list talent—why, then, do they feel so hollow? This is a case of a brilliant concept being smarter than its actual contents. A cloning movie tackling a racial divide, complacency, and privilege does indeed tickle the imagination. However, They Cloned Tyrone lacks narrative heft and raunchy grit to follow its hypothesis through to a convincing conclusion. Instead, Juel Taylor leaves the audience with a movie overflowing with fascinating ideas, and not much else.

They Cloned Tyrone unleashes its confidential experiments on unsuspecting audiences everywhere, exclusively to Netflix on Friday, July 21st.

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