The Prince of Perplexion is back & more baffling than ever in his first sequel.
This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn’t exist.
Say what you will about independent film auteur Neil Breen: he has a vision. All of his movies have a common theme, in which a man with superhuman abilities (played by Neil Breen) directs those abilities toward vanquishing evil corporate and government entities. Many people die in the process, but in Breen’s vision it’s all in the name of world peace. What he’s trying to say isn’t all that hard to figure out: he thinks the world would be better off without corrupt CEOs and pass-the-buck lawmakers (and hey, I don’t disagree).
The problem is how he says it, often in the most incomprehensible, startlingly inept way possible. His sixth film, Cade: The Tortured Crossing, is his most baffling yet. It’s not so much a single cohesive movie as a collection of elliptical short films, which would feel completely unrelated to each other except that they feature the same actors, and are filmed with more green screen than in the last ten Marvel movies. It proves what doesn’t seem possible: that Breen’s filmmaking abilities are actually getting worse with each new project.
Breen’s first attempt at a sequel (though you absolutely don’t need to watch Twisted Pair), Cade continues the story of Cade Altair (Neil Breen, though you probably guessed that), a mysterious, possibly supernatural being with an evil twin brother named Cale (Neil Breen wearing a fake beard and mustache). Trying to explain the plot of any Neil Breen film is a real “dancing about architecture” situation, and I fear this will especially resemble the writings of a lunatic, but here goes. Cade donates a large amount of money to an unnamed psychiatric hospital that’s fallen into such disrepair that most of its rooms are filled with filthy old mattresses and piles of office chairs (though the patients also have access to a Casio keyboard, so it’s not all bad).
The hospital (which only seems to have two staff members and five patients) turns out to be a cover for a joint corporate-government plot to engage in human trafficking, as the young patients (we only know they’re young because Cade keeps referring to them as “the youths”) are kidnapped, and their blood is taken for genetic experimentation. What is the endgame for these experiments? It’s never made clear, just that there’s definitely a plan (called “the gene experiment plan”) and several people mention that they’ve put a lot of money into it. But Cade has his own plan: he intends to train the patients so that they become mystical warriors in his quest to bring about world peace, evidently by kicking and throwing windmill punches at people.
Mind you, this information is only gleaned through repeated expository dialogue establishing numerous times that (a) Cade is very wealthy, (b) he’s giving some of his fortune to a psychiatric hospital, and (c) there’s some kind of experiment going on behind the scenes. If not for that, it’d be impossible to tell what’s supposed to be happening. Given the reliance on ghostly scream sound effects (the same two, used so many times you’ll hear them in your sleep later), maybe the hospital is supposed to be haunted, or not. The procedure that removes blood from the kidnapping victims (using a comically large Three Stooges prop syringe) seems to kill them, yet they also show up later in the movie, so who can say. The answer to all your questions is “yes,” but also “no” at the same time.
Let me be clear (a phrase you will never hear in a Neil Breen movie): Breen has some ideas. They’re a batshit combination of Libertarianism and Mormonism, but it’s more than a lot of filmmakers bring to the table. However, because even six movies into his filmmaking career Breen still has no concept of “plot development,” it’s ten minutes of ideas stretched out to nearly 100 minutes. He also has no grasp on continuity, pacing, or even how to end a scene. Things just happen, or someone speaks, and then it just listlessly fades out, followed by a completely different, seemingly unrelated scene. Because of this, the climax feels as drawn out as the end of The Return of the King, if in The Return of the King Galadriel turned into a CGI tiger and wrestled Aragorn.
Perhaps dimly aware that he doesn’t have much of a movie on its own merits, Breen fills in the frequent lapses in plot by either simply repeating scenes, or with long shots of the psychiatric hospital patients laying in Army-grade cots (or rather, hovering about a half-inch above them, since there’s not a single scene in this entire movie that isn’t completely green screened), writhing and moaning in what’s presumably supposed to be distress, but sounds hilariously sexual. At one point, the action (such as it is) stops dead in its tracks for a dance number performed by the patients. Again, there is no explanation, and no connection to anything else that happens. It seems to exist solely so that the viewer can wonder if perhaps they were hit in the head at some point and didn’t realize it.
All that being said, it’s still a better movie about child trafficking than Sound of Freedom.
Without the QAnon stink that permeates Sound of Freedom, Cade: The Tortured Crossing (note there’s no explanation as to what a “tortured crossing” is) also has a shitty DIY charm that the other movie lacks. The bad ADR (used over static shots where no one’s lips are moving), stilted “aliens poorly disguised as humans” dialogue, reliance on stock footage of audiences applauding Cade’s speeches, and Breen’s no-budget attempt at recreating the Burly Brawl sequence from The Matrix Reloaded all scratch that same surreal itch as Tim and Eric, Awesome Show, Great Job! Except in this case, evidently he’s quite serious. Breen has been making movies since 2007, that’s a long time for all of this to be some sort of strange joke he’s playing on audiences. It doesn’t seem likely that he makes a fruitful living by selling copies of his movies out of his garage (to date the only way you can view his entire filmography, though they’ll occasionally show up on YouTube), so clearly he’s doing this both for love of the craft, and to get his message out in the world.
That he has not the slightest knowledge of the craft, or that his message is wildly incoherent, seems to be of little consequence. Entirely crowdfunded (though not asking more than the bare minimum cost to make something that can be legally classified as a “film”), Breen’s movies are entirely unique creations, and Breen himself, without Tommy Wiseau’s taste for dubious stardom, is an entirely unique filmmaker. There’s a mad sort of…well, I wouldn’t go so far as to say genius, let’s not be ridiculous. But certainly innovativeness to his work, a signature stamp when so many other far more successful filmmakers have no personal flair, nothing that makes them stand out. Neil Breen’s movies aren’t good by any stretch of the imagination, but they’re undeniably his, and you won’t see anything else like them.
Cade: The Tortured Crossing is now in limited release in theaters.