Gleaming the Cube

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Gleaming the Cube
Gleaming the cube.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byGraeme Clifford
Produced byLawrence Turman
David Foster
Written byMichael Tolkin
Music byJay Ferguson
CinematographyReed Smoot
Edited byJohn Wright
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • January 13, 1989 (1989-01-13)
Running time
100 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$10 million
Box office$2,777,280

Gleaming the Cube (also known as A Brother's Justice and Skate or Die) is an American film released in 1989. It featured Christian Slater as Brian Kelly, a 16-year-old skateboarder investigating the death of his adopted Vietnamese brother.

The skating technical advisor for the film was original Z-Boy Stacy Peralta. Among the skateboarders who appear in the film as stunt skaters are Mike McGill, "Gator" Mark Rogowski, Rodney Mullen, Rich Dunlop, Eric Dressen, Lance Mountain, Mike Vallely, Chris Black, Ted Ehr, Natas Kaupas, Chris Borst, and Steve Saiz. Tony Hawk (Buddy) and Tommy Guerrero (Sam), then members of the Bones Brigade, appear in the film as members of Brian's skate crew. Future lead singer of The Aquabats and creator of Yo Gabba Gabba!, Christian Jacobs, also appears in the film as Gremic.

The film received a moderate release in the United States from 20th Century Fox (in 469 theaters). Although the film had a relatively low box office turnout, it garnered a significant cult following after its theatrical release,[2] through basic cable replays on networks such as USA and the burgeoning VHS (and later DVD) market, as well as among skateboarders.

The title of the film refers to the cryptic question "Have you ever gleemed [sic] inside a cube?" that Garry Scott Davis (GSD) asked Neil Blender in an interview in the December 1983 issue of Thrasher magazine.[3] In the film, Christian Slater's character defines "gleaming the cube" as "pushing your limits to the edge". The DVD contains an easter egg; by highlighting the skateboard on the main menu, viewers can watch a short featurette entitled "What Does Gleaming the Cube Mean?".


Brian Kelly is an underachieving high school student in Orange County, California. An avid skateboarder, Brian is frequently at odds with his parents for his increasingly reckless behavior, which has landed him in jail on more than one occasion. The only person in the family Brian can relate to is his adopted Vietnamese brother Vinh, who works as a shipping clerk for the Vietnamese Anti-Communist Relief Fund (VACRF), an organization which sends medical supplies to Vietnam.

When Vinh discovers a suspicious inaccuracy in VACRF's shipping records, he brings it to his boss Colonel Trac, who dismisses the matter as a clerical error, then fires Vinh when he tries to investigate. Undeterred, Vinh sneaks into Westpac Medical Supplies, the warehouse handling VACRF's shipping, but is apprehended by owner Ed Lawndale. Vinh is interrogated by Lawndale and Bobby Nguyen, another of Colonel Trac's employees, at a motel. When Colonel Trac arrives, it is revealed that he and Lawndale are conspirators in a scheme to smuggle illegal weapons to Vietnam. Convinced that Vinh poses no threat to their operation, Trac intends to set him free, but Vinh is strangled to death by Nguyen. They hang Vinh's body from a noose, so the police deem it a suicide.

After the funeral, Brian finds the list of medical supplies Vinh was investigating, written in Vietnamese. Looking for someone to translate it, he encounters Bobby Nguyen who starts to follow him. Brian sneaks into the backseat of Nguyen’s car and witnesses a meeting with Trac and Lawndale, in which Nguyen demands $50,000 and a ticket to Bangkok, but a struggle ensues and Lawndale kills Nguyen. Brian flees to notify the police, but they find no trace of the crime and later learn that Nguyen supposedly arrived in Thailand. Brian tries to convince Detective Al Lucero that his brother did not commit suicide. While skeptical, Lucero offers to look into it.

As Brian's suspicion of Colonel Trac grows, he reaches out to Trac's daughter Tina, a fellow high school student and Vinh's ex-girlfriend. After an image makeover, Brian asks her out on a date and the two become closer. He attends one of VACRF's social functions, where he notices Lawndale and learns of his connection to Trac and Westpac. Following in his brother's footsteps, Brian sneaks into Lawndale's warehouse and uncovers a shipping crate full of weapons.

Brian causes an explosion at the warehouse and plants evidence to incriminate Trac, but Lucero immediately suspects Brian and admonishes him for the act. However, the incident causes Trac to panic and send his wife and daughter away to his brother's house. A distressed Tina spends the night with Brian instead and discovers a lighter belonging to her father in Brian's room, leading Brian to explain all his suspicions to her. Tina angrily confronts her father about the conspiracy, who is shamed by his involvement and contacts Lawndale to end the operation. In response, Lawndale sends a group of Vietnamese motorcyclists to run Brian down on the street. The police manage to apprehend the bikers and, with the aid of an interpreter, Lucero is able to confirm Lawndale's role in the attack.

Brian visits his friend Yabbo, who builds a newer, faster skateboard for Brian and rallies the rest of the skateboarding clique. Brian and the police both converge upon Colonel Trac's house, where Lawndale holds Tina at gunpoint. When Trac tries to wrestle the gun away, Brian crashes into the room through the window, but Lawndale shoots and kills Trac then escapes in a police car. Brian, Lucero, and the entire skateboarding crew eventually corner Lawndale. As Lawndale prepares to shoot Brian, he soars into the air on his skateboard and knocks Lawndale out.

Brian comforts Tina about her father's death and suggests that they return to school together, implying that their relationship will continue. Afterwards, Brian and Lucero visit Vinh's grave before driving away.



  • The Anaheim motel in the movie, the "Atomic Age Lodge," was in reality the Stovall's Cosmic Age Lodge on Harbor Boulevard, across the street from the then-Disneyland parking lot. It was one of a group of Stovall's hotels in the area with a "Space Age" theme (the others being Stovall's Apollo Inn and Stovall's Space Age Lodge and the Inn Of Tomorrow). The Cosmic Age was demolished in the late 1990s to make room for Disney California Adventure. The others have been remodeled and no longer have the space theme.
  • Most of the school scenes were filmed at Woodbridge High in Irvine, California.
  • The video store, pool hall, and Brian trying to find a translator scenes were filmed along Bolsa Avenue between Magnolia St. and Ward St. in Garden Grove.
  • The Pizza Hut where Tony Hawk's character works is now a Taco Bell, still standing at 2941 West Imperial Highway in the city of Inglewood.
  • Some introductory scenes were filmed at John Wayne Airport (Orange County, California) before major renovation work on the terminal.
  • The hill scene was filmed on 17th Street between Patton and Leland in San Pedro, California.
  • The car chase scene near the end of the movie was filmed on West Seaside Way between the 500 to 700 block in Long Beach, California.
  • Brian's ferry ride was from Balboa Island to the Balboa Peninsula where on his bike he met his skateboarding friends at the Balboa Fun Zone in Newport Beach.

Cultural references[edit]

In the Simpsons episode "Lemon of Troy", Bart and a young Shelbyville boy skate past a female doppelganger of Groundskeeper Willy, who screams after them, "Slow down, ya sidewalk surfin, cube gleamers!" The movie is referenced again in the episode "To Surveil with Love" when Ned Flanders tells Bart to "Stop gleaming that cube!" as he is watching Bart skateboard down the sidewalk.

In the Season 2 premiere of Robot Chicken, Christian Slater plays a skater named Skater McGee, who gets kids to try an incredibly hard trick called the "Monster Cookie Pinwheel". When asked by the skaters what a Monster Cookie Pinwheel is, Skater McGee replies with, "A monster cookie pinwheel is when you skate up to a locomotives cow catch, you 360 punk buster to the second car, do a lemonade hand stand on the third car, a whipping-post ollie to the fourth car, a demon stomper on the fifth car, and a gleaming the cube off the sixth car, before dismounting the train."

A reference to "gleaming the cube" was also made in season 3 of the show The Goldbergs when Erica asks Barry's friend Geoff, "What does that even mean?" as he took off on his skateboard.

In season 4, episode 5 of South Park, when Cartman searches the internet for older, more mature friends, the computer screen shows that three chat rooms above the one he eventually joined (Men Who Like Young Boys) is a chat room called "Gleaming The Cube". [1]

The 2010 skateboarding video game Skate 3 featured a mission with a name parodying the movie's title, Teaming the Kube, the Kube being an area in the game.

A season two episode of the Netflix original series Voltron: Legendary Defender makes a word-play reference to the film. Episode four is titled "Greening the Cube."

The film is referenced in the dialogue in The Lego Batman Movie.


Professional skateboarder Stevie Williams has stated in an online interview that Slater's character in the film was his first skateboarding influence.[4]

Skateboarding figure Tony Hawk, in a 2008 interview with Slater, revealed that he is continually asked if Slater actually skated in the film. Hawk has remained in contact with Slater well beyond the production of the film.[5]


  1. ^
  2. ^ He Bolin (22 June 2009). "Skateboarding out of the shadows". China Daily. China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Retrieved 24 August 2012.
  3. ^ Scott Davis, Gary (December 1983). "Steep Slopes". Thrasher. Vol. 3 no. 12. San Francisco, California: High Speed Productions Inc. p. 8. Retrieved 6 March 2017.
  4. ^ Blair Alley (28 February 2012). "30TH ANNIVERSARY INTERVIEWS: STEVIE WILLIAMS PT 1". Transworld Skateboarding. Bonnier Corporation. Retrieved 24 August 2012.
  5. ^ RIDEChannel (interview by Tony Hawk) (6 June 2012). "Christian Slater and Tony Hawk discuss Gleaming the Cube - Dissent". YouTube. Google, Inc. Retrieved 24 August 2012.

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