Gleaming the Cube (1989)

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In the 1980’s, skateboarding gained extraordinary popularity. To capitalize on the trend, this film featured a dramatic storyline about one teen’s justice and his use of his skateboarding skills to find the ones responsible for his brother’s death.

Brian Kelly is a teen who has a passion for skateboarding and shows angst towards his parents. He has an adopted Vietnamese brother, Vinh. Vinh works at a local Vietnamese video store for former war colonel Tran. When Vinh accidentally uncovers a list of medical supplies and investigates, he is caught by Longdale, owner of the medical supply facility that is also a factory for arms. During his interrogation, Vinh is accidentally killed and to cover tracks and Longdale makes it look like he committed suicide.

When Brian learns about Vinh’s death, he finds clues that may prove that Vinh did not kill himself. As he gets closer to the truth, hardboiled detective Lucero tells Brian to stay away from the case. However, realizing that he must do it his way, Brian continues his investigation. This includes witnessing the death of a key figure in the case by Longdale. Brian goes as far as going undercover as a preppie to get close to Tran, who has ties to Longdale. However, along the way, Brian begins to slowly fall for Tran’s daughter, who was Vinh’s girlfriend. Will Brian be able to finally uncover everything and eventually get Lucero’s help in nabbing Longdale and avenge his brother’s death?

From the description, one wonders what all this has to do with skateboarding. Well, the answer is simple. Brian, played by Christian Slater, is an expert skateboarder who uses his skills to get involved in chases and travel. He doesn’t really use any other mode of transportation, with exceptions being hanging off the backs of cars like Michael J. Fox’s Marty did in Back to the Future. The man responsible for handling the skateboarding sequences is Z-Boys legend Stacy Peralta, who has some of his veteran team members play Brian’s buddies. Notably, the millennium legend of skateboarding, Tony Hawk, has a major role complete with 80’s hair as Buddy, the pizza delivery boy who assists Brian in the climatic finale.

Slater does well playing Brian as a teen with complete angst. He rebels towards his parents although the reason is never truly clear. Does it stem from jealousy with deceased brother Vinh? Actually, Vinh seems to be the only family member Brian has complete respect for prior to his death. However, key scenes show Brian’s passion for skateboarding as he and his friends open the film going to an airfield to rent an airplane. Why? To find a pool worthy of their skills. Eventually, as he goes on his quest to find the truth behind his brother, Brian begins to change as a person, which proves to be quite essential for this type of film.

The climatic finale is truly worth seeing. It involves Brian eventually teaming with Lucero as they track Longdale. This chase scene has Lucero chasing with Longdale’s car after the villain hijacks a police car and kidnaps Tran’s daughter. Meanwhile, Brian hops on the back of a Corvette who is going after said hijacked police car after he gets bumped. The Corvette is going over 100 miles per hour and Brian is hanging onto it on his skateboard as he waits for his buddies to arrive. This is truly some interesting action courtesy of stunt coordinator Buddy Joe Hooker (who also plays the Corvette driver) and skateboard advisor Peralta.

Gleaming the Cube is quite an underrated film that capitalizes on the skateboarding trend mixed in with a typical revenge style plot. However, leads Christian Slater and Steven Bauer fit their roles to a tee and make it work overall.

WFG RATING: B

20th Century Fox presents a Gladden Entertainment production. Director: Graeme Clifford. Producers: Brue McNall, David Foster, and Lawrence Turman. Writer: Michael Tolkin. Cinematography: Reed Smoot. Editing: John Wright.

Cast: Christian Slater, Steven Bauer, Richard Herd, Le Tuan, Min Luong, Art Chudabala, Ed Lauter, Micole Mercurio, Peter Kwong, Charles Cyphers, Max Perlich, Tony Hawk, Tommy Guerrero, Christian Jacobs.

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