Acknowledging the foot-shooting folly of its title (cleverly reworked by Erykah Badu in an end-credits spin on her signature song), They Cloned Tyrone is a slice of social satire and science-fiction best served without knowing too much.

The easy comparisons are Jordan Peele’s Get Out and Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You. The more accurate ones are the puckish, pointed genre work of Aaron McGruder, Donald Glover and John Ridley … with a few of Tracy Jordan’s conspiracy theories for spice. Although it muscles out a few of its most meaningful ideas in favor of climactic fireworks, Tyrone represents a slyly stylized feature-film directorial debut for Juel Taylor (breaking out of legacyquel work after Creed II, Space Jam: A New Legacy and Transformers: Rise of the Beasts).

Taylor and co-writer Tony Rettenmaier waste no time establishing their throwback aesthetic. Your Netflix stream is working properly. That’s intentionally brick-thick grain and faux cigarette burns to mimic reel changes a la Grindhouse. Call it Blumhouse blaxploitation. Taylor and Rettenmaier also don’t initially let backstory bog things down, instead offering organic introductions to their three protagonists: Fontaine (John Boyega), who formed a drug-dealing career after a tragedy born from trusting systems that sell the lie of service and protection; Slick Charles (Jamie Foxx), a down-on-his-luck pimp nearly three decades removed from his player’s ball accolades but still clinging to them like crushed velvet; and Yo-Yo (Teyonah Parris of WandaVision and 2021’s Candyman), a young woman who has big plans for a different life elsewhere (and an even bigger mental Rolodex of movie references) but who has stalled out in Charles’ collegial, but stifling, orbit of sex work.

After a night of violence in which their paths intersect, the morning after suggests inexplicably strange misdeeds are afoot in the Glen — the African-American community they call home. (Although filmed in Atlanta, the movie’s license plates simply read A SWELL PLACE.) It’s not long before Fontaine, Yo-Yo and Slick Charles find themselves on the trail of something sinister.

While the details of what this trio delves into create intrigue, their insecurities are more interesting — fleshed out by immersive, involving work from Boyega, Parris and Foxx, who also crackle as a comic cohort. Parris plays Yo-Yo’s lean-in boisterousness as both a necessary defense adaptation and a mask to let slip, selling the theme of dreams kept purposefully at arm’s length almost solely through her eventually crestfallen glances. After last year’s Breaking and The Woman King, Boyega continues a strong post-Star Wars run. He lets Fontaine’s own façade drop in the screenplay’s cruelest cut, which severs the ties of family to which we often cling when in freefall. Meanwhile, Foxx continues his underrated run as a Netflix utility player with a more supporting role than last year’s Day Shift but no less distinctive shading. A throwback to his characters on In Living Color, Charles’ caffeinated chatter comes off as Rudy Ray Moore meets Motherfucker Jones. But Foxx also deftly navigates the moments in which somber surprises detune Charles’ symphonic shit-talk.

Each of these performances offers the welcome weight of thumbs on the scale, keeping Taylor and Rettenmaier’s speculative sendups and deep-bench cinematic knowledge in check. Yo-Yo’s name-check of Kevin Bacon and 1997’s Telling Lies in America is the sort of self-congratulatory back-slap the script could stand to sever. Ditto the number of cold-stop Architect-style speeches a la The Matrix Reloaded, which only serve to garble the satire’s cut and clarity during the final act. At least this clutter doesn’t overwhelm the confidence, and concern for character, with which Taylor and Rettenmaier conclude their story. Working in several genres where it’s difficult not to feel like a copy of a copy, They Cloned Tyrone does just enough to feel one of a kind.