This weekend is an absolute treat for cinema lovers. Nolan’s Oppenheimer and Gerwig’s Barbie have managed to bring audiences back to the cinema halls and made them crave experiences beyond the franchise-driven, regurgitated narratives. Meanwhile, a brilliant sci-fi mystery thriller, They Cloned Tyrone (2023), has arrived on Netflix, which deserves just as much of your attention.
Juel Taylor’s feature directorial debut – ‘They Cloned Tyrone’ is a rewarding blend of genres from comedy to science fiction, from a caper thriller to a Blaxploitation flick. It combines the aspects of genres into a socially conscious drama that is hilarious, thrilling, and intellectually stimulating. Despite its occasional plot holes, it is a film you should not miss at any cost! Here is our attempt at dissecting the film’s core and its plot points.
They Cloned Tyrone (2023) Plot Summary & Movie Synopsis:
What is John Boyega’s starrer They Cloned Tyrone about?
They Cloned Tyrone’s screenplay, written by Juel Taylor and Tony Rettenmaier, explores pertinent themes of racism and cultural assimilation, among others. It follows a story with an unlikely trio of mainly three characters – a drug dealer named Fontaine (John Boyega), a pimp named Slick Charles (Jamie Foxx), and a sex worker named Yo-Yo (Teyonah Parris) who embark on a journey filled with a series of eerie events. Along the way, they stumble upon an evil government conspiracy.
The narrative occurs in a city named Glen. It starts off by giving a look into Fontaine’s usual routine. Fontaine speaks with his mother from outside her room’s door, gets some drinks from a local shop, and enjoys them on a couch with his friend, Moss. He talks about Slick Charles’s debt, which Moss could not procure for a foolish reason. So, Fontaine decides to take the matter into his hands. He injures one of Slick’s cronies and then barges into his place. That’s where he comes across Yo-Yo, who works for Slick. While Fontaine gets his money, Slick calls out his black-on-black crime.
When Fontaine walks back to his car with the money, Isaac (J. Alphonse Nicholson), a rival drug dealer, shoots him. However, Fontaine surprisingly repeats his usual routine the next day and shows up at Slick’s doorstep to get his money. Slick gets confused. How can Fontaine be alive when he saw the man being killed right outside his apartment? He believes this is because Fontaine has returned from the dead as a ghost. Fontaine finds it strange and feels that Slick is trying to find a way out. Even when Fontaine hears about his death from Yo-Yo, he finds it hard to believe.
Yo-Yo recalls where the shooters drove off. Fontaine drives there with Slick and her – thinking he will find the truth. Outside the house, he sees the car and remembers seeing it earlier the same day. While he walks in with a gun, Slick & Yo-Yo follow him to investigate the matter. Fontaine soon finds a strange elevator and gets inside despite Slick’s opposition. He thinks they are putting their lives in danger. Nevertheless, he follows them in the elevator that leads them to a neon-tinted lab. They interrogate the light-skinned man working there to learn what they are up to. The man tells Fontaine – ‘We are everywhere.’
By that time, Slick comes across a powder that makes him laugh despite the serious situation. As a result, he ends up shooting this man. Meanwhile, Fontaine sees a dead body lying on the side that looks identical to him. While Fontaine repeats that it isn’t him, Slick finds it impossible to believe. Yo-Yo tries to persuade them both to solve this mystery for the greater good despite their differences. She starts to comprehend a possible conspiracy behind it. However, since Fontaine is restless, he busts open the trap house with his mates. Unlike before, he can’t find an elevator inside.
Chicken Restaurant & Drug Powder
Later, Fontaine goes to a chicken restaurant with Yo-Yo and Slick to have some wings, and they cannot control their laughter. Slick notices that literally everyone around them is laughing and believes that there is some drug that is making it happen. Remember he suddenly started laughing in the lab? He figures that the chicken has the same powder. So, Yo-Yo walks in to seek truth from its light-skinned restaurant manager. She learns that his office has surveillance access to their neighborhood. She also saw some notes on the man’s table about the chicken and what it is doing to people.
Right then, Fontaine notices a van with drug dealers and follows them. On the way, Yo-Yo learns about his brother, who died at a young age, a victim of police brutality. The van soon stops at a hair salon. While Yo-Yo and Fontaine walk in, Slick tries to find out what’s inside the van. The dealers end up driving the van with Slick inside. While following it, Fontaine and Yo-Yo recall a quote that a drunk man in his neighborhood said – ‘Straighter is greater.’ This strange clue leads them to a Black church, where they find the van and rescue Slick. They enter the church and eventually find a way to a secret lab.
Lab Under the Church
Yo-Yo, Fontaine & Slick wear suits like the lab workers and explore the lab. They see several black people kept in cages with white men taking notes about their behavior. The eerie look leads them to a realization that these people are trying an evil experimental therapy like A Clockwork Orange. They figure these people are using chicken, music, and certain phrases to control their (Black people’s) minds. Soon after, Fontaine and Slick both see clones that look exactly like them. Slick gets so frustrated that he starts shooting at this clone.
After escaping this underground lab, they get followed by many such clones. They run for their lives, eventually leading them to meet one of Fontaine’s clones, all suited up. Nixon (Kiefer Sutherland) accompanies this clone. The clone reveals that the experiments are being conducted to achieve peace in the United States. He advises the trio to ignore that it is a trap and tells them to embrace ignorance. It ultimately helps the white lot like Nixon to control the minds of black people – with predictable triggers without being questioned for their nefarious experiments. We witness it the moment Nixon says ‘Olympia Black,’ Fontaine and Slick start acting exactly as per Nixon’s orders. He lets them go only under the condition that they will stop investigating these crimes.
Because of this, Fontaine loses hope in the investigation. He tells Yo-Yo that their neighborhood is filled with criminals desperate for a quick buck. Besides his realization about clones, he makes a shocking discovery about his mother. It turns out the mother’s voice speaking from inside the room was just a taped recording. It was meant to keep him under the illusion that his mother was inside. As a result, he also starts doubting whether his younger brother was killed or not.
When he and Slick regain their hope, Yo-Yo goes missing. They believe evil scientists have locked her inside the facility. To rescue her, Slick plans to join hands with Isaac to fake Fontaine’s death. As per their agreement, Isaac shoots Fontaine right on the shoulder to leave a mark but not kill him. That way, Fontaine manages to infiltrate the facility as a ‘dead body.’ While Slick and Isaac drive there with an army full of men, Fontaine forces a scientist to let the men inside.
Yo-Yo saves herself and joins Slick in the fight, thanks to their clever efforts. Nixon tries to sway their minds. They make him think that he killed Slick, while the actual Slick walks there to bring him down. By that time, Yo-Yo entices Nixon by showing another way (Slick’s style) in which he can manipulate black folks. After all, controlling minds by using one’s weak spots is how evil minds rise to the top.
They Cloned Tyrone (2023) Movie Ending Explained:
The Metaphors Behind Clones & Assimilation
Fontaine comes across an old man in a suit during his time in the facility. One of his clones reveals that he is the lead geneticist of the operation. The old man calls himself the original Fontaine, who shared his DNA for further cloning. He confirms that his young brother – Ronnie, did, in fact, die because of cops. Due to the trauma of this dreadful experience, he joined hands with evil forces. ‘Assimilation is better than annihilation,’ he says. He believes it is a way for them to attain peace instead of being killed the way his younger brother did. At its core, They Cloned Tyrone’s assimilation is a metaphor for how white America accepts black people only when they behave in certain, white-appropriate ways. The clones reflect how the white folks intentionally keep black people impoverished to maintain inequality.
To save himself, young Fontaine says the trigger phrase – ‘Olympia Black,’ which invites every clone controlled by it. It shows how the collective force can be powerful in the face of evil. Eventually, Fontaine, Slick, and Yo-Yo manage to escape this strange lab with all the clones. In the outside world, it becomes breaking news – since several naked people appear on the streets out of nowhere. As a result, the truth about the secret lab becomes public. Ultimately, we hear Fontaine agreeing to join Slick on a further adventure to fight against such forces across the country. But the film does not conclude with a defining ending and gives us a little more to chew upon.
Right after the title card comes on, we see a man, identical to Fontaine, waking up and following his daily routine in LA. Later, on the TV, he and his friends watch the news of clones coming out on the streets. One of these clones resembles Fontaine. Right after seeing their friend’s lookalike, one of the friends asks, ‘Ain’t that you, Tyrone?’ So, with the film’s open-ended, ambiguous final note, we finally get to hear the reason behind the title.
It hints at the realization that more people have similar daily experiences. They still need to struggle to get out of the lives they are made to live. The abrupt ending forces us to realize the importance of collective force. Instead of the forces trying to break the community, one can hope for a better future by sticking together. That’s how Fontaine got out with all the clones.