Brian Kelly (Christian Slater) is a California skater with a rebellious attitude and an adopted Vietnamese brother named Vinh (Art Chudabala). When the movie starts, all Brian cares about is not selling out and finding empty pools to skate. He even hires an airplane to fly him and his friends over Orange County so they can get a bird’s-eye view of the layout. Vinh is more worried about his job with the Vietnamese Anti-Community Relief Fund. The fund has been set up to send medical supplies to Vietnam but, when Vinh comes across a discrepancy in the shipping records, he realizes that something else is going on. When Vinh turns up dead in a hotel room, everyone else may believe that it is suicide but Brian knows that his brother was murdered. With the help of his fellow skaters and a sympathetic cop (Steven Bauer), Brian sets out to bring his brother’s killers to justice.
I was surprised when I watched Gleaming the Cube because it turned out to be much better than I was expecting. The movie is justifiably best known for its skating sequences, which were shot by Stacy Peralta and which featured pro-skaters Mike McGill, Rodney Mullen, and Gator Rogowski doubling for Slater in some of the film’s more spectacular stunts. (Tony Hawk plays one of Slater’s friends.) Slater, himself, learned how to skate for the movie and looks far more comfortable and natural on his board than Josh Brolin did in Thrashin’. Beyond the spectacular skating, Gleaming the Cube is energetically directed and surprisingly well-acted. A pre-stardom Christian Slater gives one of his best and most natural performances as Brian, playing the role without any of the tics or affectations that later came to define his career. Of its type, Gleaming the Cube is a classic.