Somewhere in Hollywood there must be a pile of scripts that are deemed worthy of a random gimmicky angle. A buddy cop story? No, let’s make it a cop and his mom who solve crimes together. A script about the plucky underdog baseball team? Let’s make the left fielder a chimpanzee. A generic romantic comedy? What if the woman was actually Damon Wayans? And so on.
Gleaming the Cube was once in that pile. Some studio hack read through its jumbled script about a white kid avenging his adopted Vietnamese brother’s murder at the hands of anti-Communist weapons smugglers and said to himself, “Well… maybe if we put it on skateboards.”
We begin in Orange County, with Christian Slater in prime James Dean-meets-Jack Nicholson form as Brian, the swaggery nobody teenager who’s dumb as a rock but likes to skateboard a lot. Brian’s adopted brother Vinh (Art Chudabala) is really smart but also really, really troubled- with “really, really troubled” meaning “accidentally found out his boss is illegally smuggling weapons through his charity organization and is going to get killed, even though his boss is also his girlfriend’s dad.” Vinh does, in fact, get killed, but the boss/dad (Le Tuan) and his partner, some stereotypically evil corporate white guy (Richard Herd) make it look like a suicide. O.C. cops apparently don’t check on these things, so it’s up to Brian and his trusty skateboard to figure out what really happened to Vinh.
See the plot-hole yet? Vinh’s smart and he cares, but Brian is stupid and lazy. And yet he’s going to be able to break the case that neither his smart brother nor the cops can solve, all because he can ride a skateboard.
Unsurprisingly, Brian sucks at detective work and frequently leaves the case to go skateboarding and get his head together- one of his dumb friends calls this “gleaming the cube,” whatever the hell that means- but he does have two aces up his sleeve. First, he knows a cop named Lucero (Steven Bauer). How he knows him, we don’t know. Lucero belittles Brian and never believes anything he says, but he listens, and eventually believes Brian’s conspiracy theory in time for the big car chase finale. Brian’s other advantage is that he’s dating Vinh’s girlfriend Tina (Min Luong). Remember, it’s her dad who helped kill Vinh. Eventually Brian confesses what he knows to Tina, who confesses what Brian knows to her dad, who confesses what Brian knows to the white guy. The white guy kills Tina’s dad, which we’re apparently supposed to be sad about, and takes Tina hostage, stealing Lucero’s police car just as he shows up to arrest them all. Brian calls his skater friends for help, and they pile into a Pizza Hut delivery truck and sort of wander around going “GNARLY, BRIAN” while the cop and Brian chase the evil white guy around in Tina’s dad’s car. Eventually they run out of film and Brian saves the day by doing an ollie on the evil white guy’s face, the end.
Gleaming the Cube isn’t a great b-movie, though it does have some fun moments, and about six hundred subplots. It also features Tony Hawk- yes, the Tony Hawk- as an unnamed “friend”, if that floats your boat. This one’s worth a look and that’s about it.
“I didn’t get no message, my machine must be broken!” – Brian
“Hey, there’s my Pizza Hut!” – friend
“Move, putz!” – Lucero
“You jumped into the back seat of a pervert’s car?” – Lucero
“The cube, Brian… when you skate it’s the place that you go.” – Yabbo
“I miss you Vinh! I mean, I hate doing my own homework!” – Brian
“They threw me out of the park for peeing on Donald Duck.” – Brian