Film Review: Gleaming the Cube (1989)

Also known as: A Brother’s Justice, Skate or Die (alternate titles), Downtown Hero (Denmark), Skate Rider (France), California Skate (Italy)
Release Date: January 13th, 1989
Directed by: Graeme Clifford
Written by: Michael Tolkin
Music by: Jay Ferguson
Cast: Christian Slater, Steven Bauer, Richard Herd, Le Tuan, Min Luong, Ed Lauter, Tony Hawk

Gladden Entertainment, 20th Century Fox, 100 Minutes


“I guess we all do unexpected things sometimes, don’t we?” – Brian Kelly

This is one of those ’80s films I’m not totally nostalgic for. I did see it back then and liked it but I never really revisited it beyond the early ’90s. Truthfully, it didn’t have the lasting power, even though it had some dope skateboarding stunts.

Gleaming the Cube is very much an ’80s teen drama in the most derivative and cliche way possible. It stars Christian Slater but it doesn’t measure up to any of his better films from the era: HeathersPump Up the VolumeThe Legend of Billie Jean, etc.

The story sees a young skater trying to solve the mystery of his adopted Vietnamese brother’s death, which at first was made to look like a suicide. It’s a coming of age story where a slacker kid must grow up and face the cruelty of adulthood while working with the cops and his gang of skater friends, one of which is skating legend Tony Hawk.

It’s a decent movie but it is forgettable. It doesn’t have anything to really make it stand out. While the skateboarding element was cool, it wasn’t anything new in teen movies by the time 1989 rolled around. In fact, it kind of hurts the film, as it feels like it should be categorized with other teen extreme sports schlock like BMX BanditsRad or Brat Patrol. While those were movies about BMX bikes, the narrative and style is still pretty consistent.

Slater still displayed some good acting chops for his age and I’m sure this only helped him get to where he needed to be, as he entered the ’90s, where he rose to being a much bigger star for awhile.

Rating: 6/10