Breen is back! We Breeniacs have been waiting with bated breath, searching for every bit of news about the great man, plot details of his upcoming work, and rewatching his old masterpieces. When we discovered that Breen would be playing twins (!) in his new movie, excitement levels reached a fever pitch.
For those of you late to the party, I’ll give you everything I know about Neil Breen. He was / is a real estate agent, or possibly an architect, or possibly both, in the Las Vegas area…and that’s pretty much it – Breen is tight-lipped when it comes to giving biographical details or explaining what the hell he’s doing. In the early 2000s, he decided, for reasons unknown, to start making movies, and we’ve now had five (starting with 2005’s “Double Down”, through “I Am Here….Now” in 2009, “Fateful Findings” in 2013 and “Pass Thru” in 2016) where he works with the same basic set of ideas.
Firstly is a strong environmental message. Second, events from childhood directly affecting the present – often, it’s a love affair that starts at age 7, but “Twisted Pair” uses the trope a little differently. Third, the lead actor (always Breen) is a genius, or has super-powers, or both. Fourth, bankers, CEOs, and politicians are monsters (no argument from me on that score) and must be stopped, preferably by killing them or causing them to kill themselves. Fifth, extreme use of stock footage.
When you add these same basic building blocks to Breen’s complete incompetence in front of and behind a camera, then you’ve got a recipe for fun. Certain scenes of his will stick with me forever, like seeing politicians cheer on a knife fight in the middle of a derelict street in the bright sunlight, from “I Am Here….Now”; or the shower sex scene in “Fateful Findings”. Can’t say that about every filmmaker! Breen is writer, director, star, producer, cinematographer, editor, casting guy, production manager, makeup, location manager, and craft services provider. Honestly, I’m not entirely sure he’s quite got the talent for all those jobs, you guys.
So, what does he bring to the table for “Twisted Pair”? Cade and Cale Altair are a couple of normal twin children, hanging out by the seaside, playing with their dog, until they’re summoned by some supernatural entity and given AI powers. The reason for this is never stated, but the two of them become agents for the organisation that the entity…supervises?…and do all sorts of missions round the world – clearly, the training took around 40 years, judging by the age of the kids, then the age of Breen now. We see one of these missions, where Cade leaps into a building in front of paused stock footage of soldiers, says “follow me, I’ll keep you safe”, plays the stock footage for a few more seconds, repeats the pause and the “follow me” section a few minutes later, then leaps out of the building, which blows up. The most noticeable thing about these scenes is Breen himself, who’s stick-thin and frail-looking, like he’s recovering from an extremely serious illness. He just never seems comfortable in his own skin.
Cale rebels against his training, or just isn’t very good at being an AI agent, and has his powers stripped, but we don’t see that, as it might have been interesting – we’re just told about it via Breen’s uber-monotone voiceover. The plot, such as it is, might be said to be a conflict between the twins’ methods of dealing with the evils of society – Cale kidnaps and murders politicians, CEOs and bankers, Cade…er…does the occasional mission? There’s a thing about some super-powered AI which will link all humans, and the evil Kuze (either the name of a person or an organisation, or both) wanting to get hold of it, but it’s barely developed, like Breen had an idea for it but then got bored and went on to something else. Cade’s boss and a table full of people we never see again have a big meeting which may or may not be about Kuze, and talk about stuff like “programmable DNA” – well, they just say random phrases like that and no resolution is ever come to.
How do we tell Cade and Cale apart, I hear you ask? (well, you might ask that if you’ve not seen the trailer or any promotional materials) Cale wears a fake moustache and beard, where you can clearly see the glue holding both things to his face, so bad that one wonders just where he found such a hideous thing. This, amazingly, isn’t the worst facial adornment in the movie, as one of the CEOs has a…thing…glued to his top lip, and thanks to the lighting used in his scenes, kinda looks like a bad impression of Groucho Marx.
There’s a scene which might be a fakeout, but might just be him forgetting to film the middle part of a longer story. He runs into a woman, and she seems super-annoyed with him, walking away and refusing his aggressive requests for dinner. He goes back to the spot several times, hoping to see her again, then sees her in the distance and says “hey, that’s the girl I met earlier, I’m gonna go follow her”. He decides to break into her house, grabbing her, and…she’s his girlfriend! None of the preamble to this makes the slightest sense, like he’s playing along with this lover’s game when he’s the only person around.
One would think that a movie which talks so heavily about technology (dropping those phrases like “artificial intelligence” and “programmable virtual reality” like they’re going out of fashion) might use that technology to influence the plot, or have a scene set in a virtual reality, or anything of that sort. Of course not! What we do get, on the other hand, is a solid half-hour of Neil Breen wandering round the closed University of Nevada at 3am, sat in front of a bank of computers, sat in an empty auditorium, and trying to convince us that the metal seats in front of the school’s cafeteria is the city’s best restaurant.
I wanted to mention Kuze, the villain, briefly. He has his voice disguised like he’s being filmed for a crime reconstruction show, has a scarf which keeps changing colour, and a bowl of diamonds (all comically large fake ones, obviously). He apparently has a plan to take over the world with biochemistry, but we don’t really see it, because the only thing Neil Breen is interested in showing us is Neil Breen, and screw the plot. Towards the end, he mentions “biological mutant warfare”, when I thought it was to do with AI? Ah, who cares. Not Breen, that’s for sure!
Cade and Cale have a few scenes together, and this is a good spot to talk about the completely unnecessary technical shortcomings. When the two of them are in the same shot, Cale is always blankly staring off into the middle distance, and Cade is looking downwards, slightly. Now, I feel like someone ought to have said “hey Neil, you know your identical twin brother is the same size as you, right? Why don’t you just look straight ahead?” Mentioning the long shot of Cade walking across the campus, when the foreground is almost completely obscured by a tree, seems cruel. Perhaps one of the crew (there must have been someone else on the set, surely?) moved the camera as a joke?
The other completely avoidable technical flaw is in the editing. If you want something to do during “Twisted Pair”, then count the number of times Breen does things like this:
Character 1: speech
Cut to character 2, who pauses like they’re listening to the speech, even though it’s already happened
Character 2: response
Sometimes they just leave in seconds of dead air before and after every line, or my favourite – leave in the few seconds while the actors are waiting to be told “action”, so you just see people stood doing nothing, then suddenly lurching into action. There are two credited editors on this movie, one of whom isn’t Breen, so…well, I’m pretty sure I could train myself to edit better than this in a couple of hours. He’s been making movies for over a decade!
I’ve yet to mention the relationships, always the high point of a Breen movie. Donna (Siohbun Ebrahimi) is the lady I mentioned up above, and Alana (Sara Merritt) is the junkie girlfriend of Cale. Again, I’m not sure Breen has ever met a woman or had a relationship with one – every conversation is full of incredibly intense declarations of love, or angry shouting. The ladies are both, of course, terrible at acting. I wonder one day if Breen is just going to luck into hiring a fantastic actor at the beginning of their careers, but not yet!
Once again, Breen has…well, delivered a thing you can buy on DVD. I hesitate to call it a movie. It’s so slow! If you took out the repeated scenes, and the pauses, you’d have maybe an hour’s worth of entertainment – it would still be terrible, but at least it would be shorter. I’m not sure that he’s ever seen another movie, honestly, because his output doesn’t look or feel like anyone else; think of the legends of bad movie-dom, and they at least appear interested in telling a story. I’ve now seen it twice over the past couple of days, and I’m not any the wiser as to what he’s trying to do, what story he’s trying to get across, or even what point he’s trying to make. It’s surprising that someone with such a monomaniacal desire to make movies doesn’t have any particular reason for doing so, other than to glorify himself. But five movies worth? He really appears to be getting worse, too. He must have read at least some of the criticism levelled at his previous movies, but he just keeps making the same mistakes, or inventing new ones.
Having watched it with a large group of Breeniacs, then again on my own, I’d definitely recommend this be a group experience.
Rating: thumbs up