Neil Breen Spectacular Pt 6: Cade: The Tortured Crossing

Yes! He’s back! Along with his evil twin! It’s finally time we took a look at Neil Breen’s first sequel!

Who am I? What am I? These are the questions Cale Altair is constantly asking himself. After seeing Neil Breen’s latest magnum opus, the audience may find themselves asking that too.

Filmed entirely on a green screen stage against stock photos (including such locations as the ever-Instagramable Bran Castle, a postcard of the Austrian Alps, several fields in England and a road that could just as easily be in the Scottish Highlands as it could be in Peru), Cade The Tortured Crossing (2023) is by far Neil Breen’s most… controversial work. If you hang out in Breen-centric Facebook groups and Reddit forums as much as I do, you’ll have noticed many fans claiming Breen is now “self-aware,” and that he’s doing this sort of thing on purpose (although this accusation has been levelled at him to a lesser extent upon the release of his previous films), whereas other fans have hit back strongly against such a suggestion. Let me assure you, if you track down interviews with people who’ve worked with him and speak to festival programmers and cinema managers who’ve had direct dealings with him, you’ll find yourself convinced that the man is still pure of vision and honest of purpose.

I’m so ashamed! I poished off a 16″ inch pizza AND 9 buffalo wings!.

The plot (such as it is) has Breen’s Cade Altair use his wealth to finance the restoration of a mental hospital, which he is continually insisting he hasn’t seen. When he does finally get around to seeing where his money went, he discovers that the inmates are being used for strange and hideous experiments, and that his evil twin Cale might be behind it all. Cade then trains the patients to become mystical warriors whilst romancing the one doctor opposed to the scheme, resulting in a climactic fight between the now superpowered patients and the forces of evil, and a final showdown between Cade and Cale.

Despite its deficiencies at least we get the obligatory cameo from Breen’s Ferrari.

Except, that’s not the plot. Describing it like that is like trying to prove Post-Quantum Gravity without any understanding of even basic mathematics. The film unfolds less as a narrative, more as a random series of hilariously unexplained events loosely strung together. If Twisted Pair (2018) could be read has having taken place within a virtual world, then the world of Cade is a place populated entirely by NPCs running on the dream-logic of an A.I. system. Perhaps that’s what’s really happening. Perhaps the universe in which these two movies take place is entirely a simulation and the mysterious beings who gave Cade and Cale their powers are the ones running it. Maybe these aliens are nothing more than real humans in our world and the environs of Twisted Pair and Cade: The Tortured Crossing are simulacra. It would certainly explain the overwhelming levels of green screen, effects layers not scaled to fit the frame and / or disappearing several frames before a scene ends, why characters who met in the opening scene act as if they’ve never seen each other before a few minutes later, why it’s impossible to tell whether some actors are playing multiple roles or the same, consistent character, or even why some characters go from innocent, to evil, to oblivious, to good, to evil then to oblivious again throughout the course of the film.

Is that a turkey on your back or are you just pleased to see me?

The overall result is a film that defies analysis; it’s only possible to look at individual sequences as stand-out highlights. Cade is first introduced walking around locations in numerous European cities, but which are depicted as being just around the corner from each other. He’s hit by a tram at one point, but his indestructibility enables him to brush it off, yet the driver doesn’t stop, nor do any of the pedestrians express any concern because, of course, they’re not “real” in the sense that they’re merely part of the stock footage. He’s supposed to be an ace secret agent, yet he can’t get a bunch of kidnapped street people out of an SUV and neither he nor they seem to be aware that the windows are open, even as they’re supposedly banging on the glass. People carry on phone conversations even after the person on the other end of the line has hung up the phone.

Greetings, my fellow NPCs!

In true Breen style, evil corporate types and authority figures have conversations about their nefarious a-doings, but then later have conversations about how to stop said nefarious a-doings. In the film’s stand-out scene, Cade wrestles a white tiger that comes out of nowhere and is animated by one person who was given three months to construct and render a character that would have required a team of thirty to forty people triple that amount of time to get right. When they are interrupted, both human and feline cease their struggle with an air of “It’s-not-what-it-looks-like” embarrassment before the tiger wonders off only to turn into a mysterious hooded spirit woman. She crops up again several times during the film and who she is, or whether she’s the spirit of his dead love from the previous movie—she’s played by a different actress—is never revealed.

Cade residence – Apparently he lives in a life size photograph.

Incidentally, the interruption comes from the crash of a car containing patients and doctors from the hospital (a car so packed, some characters have to be composited into places where no one could possibly be sitting, as if Breen had a minibus in mind but couldn’t afford to shell out for one), all of whom Cade had already met, either at social gatherings or outright rescued previously yet who are still inmates at the asylum. Not only do none of them recognise him but they outright mistrust him. He does say to one, “Nice to see you again,” but she acts confused, and one wonders if this memory loss is deliberate, as though it’s one of Cade’s powers, but it happens so often and with so many characters, even when Cade isn’t present, that it feels as though each shot was produced with no thought as to how it would fit into the overall narrative.

The lunacy reaches its peak at the film’s climax, but before we get there, we’re subject to endlessly repeated scenes of a young man standing around in an operating theatre as a surgeon screams things like, “How did you get in here?” People being strapped down and assaulted with cartoonishly large poultry syringes, a frustrated patient hammering at the keys of his Casio keyboard to produce some of the funniest sounds I have ever heard only to throw it away in frustration, and an utterly bizarre and completely out-of-nowhere dance number that looks like it was choreographed thirty seconds before it was shot and may or may not be included because Breen saw the Locomotion sequence from David Lynch’s Inland Empire (2006). In the meantime, Cale lurks about being sinister and injecting himself with empty needles, or chasing characters around and dragging them off somewhere only for them to turn up fine and dandy a couple of scenes later with no explanation.

The climax itself involves a battle between the patients (now trained up by Cade, whose tutelage takes the form of him watching them flail their limbs whilst repeating “That’s nice, that’s nice!”) and a bunch of ninjas played by the same actors in masks. One of the patients declares, “I am the winged warrior” whilst sporting what looks like an upsidedown turkey glued to her back before multiple doppelgangers very slowly get superimposed beside her. In the end, after Cale turns up looking like he’s smeared pizza all over his face and begging to die because he’s “so ashamed!” and despite virtually the entire cast being killed, everyone suddenly lines up, miraculously alive again with the hooded tiger-spirit-woman-whatever leading the farewells as they wave goodbye to Cade like it’s the end of a children’s film.

It’s not what it looks like!

The whole problem with Cade: The Tortured Crossing is that I thoroughly enjoyed it from the point of view of a so-bad-it’s-sublime movie. Given that this is Neil Breen, you’d think that would be a good thing, and it is; it’s one of the most fun cinematic experiences I’ve ever had, but I’ve always enjoyed his previous films from the context of seeing him as some mad outsider artist. This didn’t have that vibe at all. Gone were Breen’s usual rants about corporate and government corruption, the genocidal megalomania and, like in Twisted Pair, the epic desert locations were sorely lacking, with the constant use of greenscreen making everything feel claustrophobic and, frankly, a bit lazy. One wonders if, having promised a sequel to Twisted Pair, he had no idea what to do next with the characters (it certainly doesn’t feel like it relates to the previous movie at all; the twins’ last names are even spelt slightly differently as though Breen thought the frequent mispronunciation of “Altier” sounded cooler than “Altair” and arbitrarily changed it).

I suspect the troubled production of Pass Thru (2016) hinted at by Kathy Corpus in a couple of interviews available online might have had a hand in this, and I suspect Breen preferred to work in both a more controlled environment and, in his search for “legitimacy,” attempted to ape the production methods of the likes of the Marvel and Star Wars franchises. In doing so, some of the magic is lost. The real appeal of Breen’s unique brand of cinema to me is that it invites analysis; I ended up with tears streaming down my face and my manly abbs ripped to shreds from laughing so hard, but my brain was completely disengaged. By the end of the movie, I had no idea what it was about, and I suspect, given its unbelievably disjointed nature, neither did Breen.

❉ “Cade: The Tortured Crossing” by Neil Breen (2023): Visit to purchase in the USA and Internationally.

❉ Jonathan Sisson is an actor, film maker, internationally exhibited photographer and film critic. He is currently working on his first feature film.

❉ Instagram: J_D_Sisson

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