Christian Slater plays a skateboarder turned detective in Gleaming the Cube.
Gleaming the Cube is a combination mystery and skateboarding action film starring Christian Slater, in one of his first major roles. Slater plays Brian Kelly, a young skater who becomes involved in the investigation of the death of his Vietnamese half-brother Vinh (Art Chudabala). The film begins by showing Brian as a leader in the local skateboarding subculture, whose main interest in life is finding virgin cement to skate on with his buddies. In the opening scene, you see Brian and his friends skate through a local airport and persuade a pilot friend to fly them around the Los Angeles area to help them find brand new unfilled swimming pools where they can test out their skills. However, the story shifts from the typical teen rebel film to a detective story when Brian refuses to accept the explanation given for his brother’s sudden death and vows to find out what really happened as a way of dealing with his personal grief, anger, and guilt.
Brian and his buddy Harvey look around Los Angeles for new skating locations.
Vinh gets into trouble when he goes to a warehouse to investigate suspicious invoices he runs across in the video shop where he works for his girlfriend’s dad, Colonel Trac (Le Tuan), a former commander in the Vietnamese army. In truth the store is part of an elaborate front to smuggle illegal weapons, and just as Vinh discovers this, he is captured by the Colonel’s allies, and accidentally killed while being interrogated. To cover up the killing, Vinh is left hanging in a local hotel room as if he committed suicide. Knowing his brother’s seriousness about life and his commitment to succeeding in his studies, Brian refuses to believe that Vinh’s death was self-inflicted. When he stumbles across Vinh’s notes (in Vietnamese) about the invoices, he sets out on his skateboard to find out what the words mean and what really happened. In the process, he runs into a local police detective, Al Lucero (Steven Bauer), who first thinks he is just another punk kid, until he realizes that Brian is on to something. To complete his investigation, Brian must also successfully infiltrate the local Vietnamese community and spend time with Tina Trac (Minh Luong), Vinh’s former girlfriend, as one method of finding out about what Vinh was up to. But in order to be accepted socially in traditional Vietnamese society, Brian must clean up his act. One of the most hilarious scenes in the film is the horrified reaction of his skating buddies to Brian’s transformation from a skater with frosted hair, camouflage pants and chucks, to a clean cut looking, bicycle riding young gentleman, wearing button down shirts, Dockers, and boat shoes. Brian’s friend Harvey (Charles Cyphers) tells his buddies, “If I ever get what he’s got, just shoot me.” The balance of the film is about how Brian, with the help of Detective Lucero, Tina, and his skater buddies track down Vinh’s killers and bring them to justice.
Brian gets his skater buddies to help him chase a bad guy.
Gleaming the Cube has some great L.A. chase scenes, combining cars, skaters, monocycles, police cars, and trucks in pursuit of each other in hilly residential neighborhoods and out on a freeway. Christian Slater’s performance as Brian is a little on the edge but with a sense of humor and cool attitude. As the film progresses, Brian, the rebellious, disengaged kid without a lot of purpose in life becomes a focused avenger unafraid to infiltrate the bad guys’ defenses, and fight back against his brother’s killers. The rest of the cast is believable and Stephen Bauer’s detective provides the right contrast to Slater’s teen rebel act. Director Graeme Clifford gives us a lot of action to make up for the rather convoluted plot, and there is a good energy in the film. By the way, the title is a skater’s term that roughly means “achieving the pinnacle”.
Brian’s skater buddies check him out after a big fall.
There are some interesting chucks closeups during the skating sequences.
The best chucks scenes in this film are the skateboarding sequences, where you see them shown in a variety of closeups with some fairly impressive stunts.
Brian stands up on an upright board.
There are standing up stunts, leaps and turns, and great balancing tricks well performed in the various chase and action sequences of the film.
Brian balances on one wheel.
Although Brian (disappointingly) doesn’t return to wearing chucks after his fling as a straight model citizen, but instead wears some brand new Airwalk high tops, his skater friends do not disappoint, and you see them decked out in red, black, and blue Chuck Taylor high tops at various times in the film.
Harvey wears red chucks during the final chase action sequence.
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