Review — Cade: The Tortured Crossing

cade poster

Overview

Synopsis Cade Altair returns to help a group of young children who have been kidnapped off the street seek mental health treatment from a corrupt mental asylum.

Length 1 hour, 36 minutes

Release Date February 25, 2023 (HRIFF), August 8, 2023 (Alamo Drafthouse)

 

Rating NA

Distribution Neil Breen Films LLC

Directing Neil Breen

Writing Neil Breen

Composition Neil Breen

Starring Neil Breen, Judy Lay, Gwendolyn Brown, Eric Lum, Landon Munoz, Amy Solomon, Nicole Butler, Leslie McKinney, Jennifer Estrella, Daryl Morris, Kevon Tyree, Talus Night, Jeremy Chavez, Tommy Lawler, Derek Powell, Addyson Medley

If there is a genre of film that the internet is best suited to, it might well be the so-bad-it’s-good movie. Thanks to the popularity of shows like Rifftrax and Mystery Science Theater 3000, the concept of ironic movie-watching has taken off as a popular form of entertainment.

It says something that the most popular content creators online for years were channels that hate-watched bad media like Nostalgia Critic or The Angry Video Game Nerd. People like to take in bad art in all of its complexity and find entertainment in the weird nuances. And few content creators have created more opportunities for this sort of content than filmmaker Neil Breen.

As the online reactions to his films Double Down, I am Here… Now, Fateful Findings, Pass Thru, Twisted Pair, and his retrospective show, he is a man whose ideas have left quite an impact.

Content Guide

Violence/Scary Images: There are multiple scenes containing action and explosions, and one brief scene of a man with a bloodied face and wounds, in addition to implications of bloody surgeries happening off camera.
Language/Crude Humor: Some language throughout the film.
Drug/Alcohol References: Some characters drink alcohol.
Sexual Content: Two characters implicitly have relations off-screen, they kiss in two scenes.
Spiritual Content: Brief depictions of death and the afterlife are shown but not thoroughly explained.
Other Negative Content: Minimal to none.
Positive Content: Themes of justice, brotherhood, and helping the mentally afflicted.

Review

I went into the newest Neil Breen theory thinking there was not much to be said about his movies. If you aren’t familiar with his work, he is a delightful meme and one of the leading voices in the so-bad-it’s-good genre, thanks in part to being popularized by large YouTube movie channels like Your Movie Sucks and Red Letter Media.

Breen is a retired late-middle-aged former architect living in Nevada that has spent the last 18 years indulging his fascination with movies—now having created six full-length professionally produced feature films, mostly by himself. His credit sequences are a testament to that fact, given that he seems to handle every aspect of production behind the camera and in front of it—and it shows.

Breen’s movies are incompetent at a level that beggars belief. But that’s what makes them endearing. He is a very sincere artist and he is trying to tell visionary inspirational stories on par with 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Matrix, but on a zero-dollar budget and the skills of a 3rd grader with his dad’s camera. Instead of taking the Blue Ruin approach and shooting a tightly made modest indie film, he goes big and strikes out on every conceivable level.

His films are incoherent, repetitive, and egomaniacal. They depict Breen as a Messianic genius who is the only person alive who can save humanity—and the world is better for it because these movies are incredibly entertaining to watch, if not in the way Breen likely wished.

Cade: The Tortured Crossing feels like a bizarre escalation of that if only because there seems to be more money and resources on screen at once but somehow it feels smaller, cheaper, and more uncomfortably and poorly made than its predecessors.

The film is a direct sequel to his 2018 film Twisted Pair, which depicted the pair of Cade and Cale Altair—a pair of twins abducted by a godlike sentient alien AI and given superpowers. When Cale betrays their mission of peace and protecting mankind, he becomes a cruel vigilante hunting and murdering people he sees as evil—while his brother becomes a superhero defeating cyber cartels and evil corporations.

The film picks up with both Cade and Cale after the last film but doesn’t linger on any of the incoherent dangling plot threads from the first movie. Cade is now something of a recluse living in a rural castle, using his vast wealth and superpowers to find hospitals and quietly fight criminals. When it turns out that the hospital he’s funding is being used to do lethal genetic testing on patients, he tries to intervene and save the patients from a bizarre corporate conspiracy. And he does so by training the mentally ill patients to become an army of martial artist super soldier warriors.

Weirdly enough, it seems that Breen is at least somewhat aware of the way people criticize his movies. The movie is curiously trying to address a handful of the criticisms that people laugh at his films for—namely genocidal protagonists and bad special effects—but his solutions to these problems are just baffling. Breen is trying to fix the intrinsic problems of his films, and he’s only making them worse by discovering new problems in the process.

All the hallmarks of Breen movies are here: poor acting, poor staging, awkward direction, lingering shots, and recycled footage. But it is all made worse by the fact that the film is 100% shot in front of green screens. It seems Breen has taken to heart the criticisms of Fateful Findings and Twisted Pair, that the location shooting is awkward and poorly integrated.

Breen’s solution appears to be just making a 100% green screen movie where all the composition looks the same. He’s keyed out the backgrounds and filled every second of the 90-minute movie with stock footage and Shutterstock images, which he and his actors are poorly integrated against for the film’s entire runtime. It is a marvel of poor ideas and poor execution working together to create a film that both looks more expensive while being this incompetently executed.

I don’t say any of this with malice. I love Neil Breen’s movies. I love the awkwardness and the strange ideas and execution. And it seems that the larger canvas he has to draw on allows him to execute more of his bizarre ideas.

There’s a very real heart under a film like this, as with all of his movies. Breen actively seems to care about real-life problems like political corruption, environmentalism, corporate greed, and mental illness. He just doesn’t know how to depict them or why, and the end result is a story about how an ill-equipped healthcare system is saved by those people becoming superheroes.

The movie makes repeated allusions to the idea that the mentally ill are just people with dreams and ideas who can’t communicate them properly… much like the movie itself. But then it has Breen keep repeating the line “Don’t let them show any weakness,” which is a confusing thing to say about people who need therapy.

Everyone is afraid that Neil Breen is close to getting compromised, that soon he will turn into the next Tommy Wiseau and start winking at his audiences with an ironic nudge. But that line hasn’t been crossed with Cade: The Tortured Crossing. This is a movie born of incompetence—poor keying, audio that cuts out, bad CGI animals, actors wandering around with no clue what is happening, etc.

The movie is a miracle. It is going to be used in film school classes one day to teach students NOT to execute special effects and action scenes. The plot is incoherent and impossible to follow. Character motivations are barked by actors who don’t know what is happening. And it is Breen’s sixth masterpiece! We are lucky to have the chance to enjoy it!

Positives

+ It's earnest

Negatives

- Poor special effects and CGI
- Poor staging and use of green screen
- Poor acting and directing
- Incoherent story and script

The Bottom Line

Cade: The Tortured Crossing is the sixth film Neil Breen has made and it carries on the tradition of all his prior films in being so-bad-it's-good. People who already know and understand Neil Breen will adore this film, and it will likely confuse everyone else.

 

5

Tyler Hummel

Born into the unexplored residential backwater of Chicago, Tyler Hummel is a graduate of Tribeca Flashpoint College where he studied Sound Design for Film and Interactive Media. When he isn't hosting his public access talk show The Fox Valley Film Critics or collecting DragonBall Z figurines, he enjoys writing and directing short films. As with Rick from Casablanca, "he's a man like any other man, just more so!"

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