I considered two 1980s skateboarding movies when I was originally putting together my list of 73 Sports Movies in 73, and it was very difficult to decide between the 1986 love story, Thrashin’, and the 1989 suspense, Gleaming the Cube. Actually, it wasn’t very difficult at all. I only said that for the sake of making it seem like any skating movie could even hold a candle to the unbridled awesomeness that was Gleaming the Cube.
As I remembered it, this was a story about a young skater punk who used his street smarts to solve his brother’s murder, but when I watched it again today, I realized that it was so much more, including one of the greatest, most underrated car chase scenes ever recorded.
The Ridiculously Radical Plot
Despite the fact that the Cold War was basically “over” by the time that Gleaming the Cube was made, Christian Slater’s character, Brian Kelly was a YOLO teen living in a conservative adult dystopia. Basically, there was no point in conforming to a suit and tie world, when it was all going to be blown up soon enough anyway. His adopted Vietnamese brother, Vinh, is Brian’s polar opposite – a clean-cut, book nerd who dresses properly and addresses his elders with respect.
Because Vinh is such a good boy, he even has a good job, as he keeps records for his girlfriend’s dad’s company that ships medical supplies to the poor people back in Vietnam as part of the anti-communist movement. He eventually discovers some errors in the shipping records, though, and after he reports them to Colonel Trac, Vinh is accidentally murdered by Bobby Nguyen and Mr. Wilhelm from Seinfeld while they were interrogating him. Naturally, Colonel Trac and Mr. Wilhelm make it look like Vinh hanged himself, and they eventually kill Bobby, too, because he knows too much and can’t stop freaking out.
This obviously makes Brian sad, so he shows up late to Vinh’s funeral dressed like this:
Brian vows to prove that Vinh wouldn’t have ever killed himself, and he uses his street smarts to solve everything and bring his brother’s killer to justice. I don’t want to dive into too long of a plot recap, because it would eliminate the point of encouraging you classless buffoons to watch it (seriously, it’s on YouTube for free), so here are some very important plot points:
- Brian and his boys pay a guy to fly them over their city so they can find empty swimming pools to skate in. I assume that’s how everyone did it in the 80s.
- “Gleaming the Cube” refers to finding your special place and just skating. It’s like dancing or crochet except way more radical.
- Vinh’s murderer, Bobby Nguyen, was played by Peter Kwong, who rose to fame with the role of Rain in Big Trouble in Little China, which is, of course, the greatest film ever made. This has nothing to do with the plot, but I will take every opportunity that I can to mention how awesome Big Trouble in Little China is.
- Detective Al Lucero busts Brian’s balls because he used to be a screw-up, too. Don’t go down that path, young bro.
- Brian basically uses his dead brother’s ex-girlfriend (and Colonel Trac’s daughter) to get close to Vinh’s killer. Naturally, she falls for Brian, because girls always want to do their dead boyfriend’s brother.
- But only after he gets a MAKEOVER!
- Brian’s friend Yabbo lives in a bomb shelter.
- Brian breaks into Mr. Wilhelm’s medical supply warehouse, because that’s what high schoolers do, and discovers that they’re shipping weapons to the Vietnamese rebels, so he steals Colonel Trac’s Rams hat from his home and plants it at the warehouse before he blows up a massive gas tank, because that’s what high schoolers do.
- Tina finds her dad’s lighter in Brian’s room after she sneaks in and spends the night with him, because dead boyfriend who? He tells her that she’s not going to believe what he’s about to tell her about her dad, but she does.
- Meanwhile, Colonel Trac tells Mr. Wilhelm about Brian, and he sends three guys on motorcycles to kill him, but Brian outruns them on his motorcycle because he’s so fast.
Failing to kill the one skater punk who knows the truth, Mr. Wilhelm takes matters into his own hands and leads us to the amazing car/skateboard chase that makes no sense whatsoever, so obviously we have to break it down.
For starters, when I saw this movie at 10-years old, that Pizza Hut truck was basically the coolest thing in the world to my fat ass.
Watching it now, this is one of the funniest movie scenes in history…
I do not know the exact statistics, but I believe that skateboarding off the back of cars was responsible for 6 million deaths in 1989.
Yeah, don’t worry, Detective Lucero. That random cop totally recognizes you in that beat up Oldsmobile.
As of 1989, this was the most ambitious scene ever included in a film.
Finally, you can take your physics and stuff them up your middle class butt, because Brian being able to maintain the speed to completely pull this off is real to me, damn it.
Final Grade: 1 out of 1 Christian Slater eating GIFs