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, 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. 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 along with many of his friends, 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 whose stated purpose is to send medical supplies to Vietnam.
When Vinh discovers a suspicious error in VACRF's shipping records, he brings it to his boss Colonel Trac, who dismisses the matter as a clerical error. But when Vinh tries to investigate further, Colonel Trac abruptly fires him. Determined to find out the truth, Vinh sneaks into Westpac Medical Supplies (WMS), the warehouse responsible for VACRF's shipping, but is apprehended by the warehouse's owner, Ed Lawndale. He is then taken to a local motel and interrogated by Lawndale and Bobby Nguyen, another of Colonel Trac's employees. When Colonel Trac himself arrives at the motel, it is revealed that he and Lawndale are conspirators in a scheme to smuggle illegal weapons and ammunition to Vietnam. Convinced that Vinh poses no threat to their operation, Trac intends to set him free, but unfortunately Vinh dies from being strangled by Nguyen. The next morning, a housekeeper enters the room and finds Vinh's body hanging from a noose, purposely made to look like he committed suicide.
After the funeral, Brian finds the same list of medical supplies Vinh was investigating in their room, but written in Vietnamese. While looking for someone to translate it, he encounters Bobby Nguyen who immediately begins to follow him. When Nguyen stops to use a pay phone, Brian slips unnoticed into the backseat of his car. In a secluded area, Nguyen meets with Trac and Lawndale and attempts to extort them for $50,000 and plane ticket to Bangkok in exchange for information on Brian. A struggle ensues, and Nguyen is inadvertently shot to death by Lawndale. When Trac and Lawndale depart, Brian flees to notify the police. However, when they arrive at the scene, the authorities find no trace of the crime. Brian confides in Detective Al Lucero, believing that his brother did not commit suicide. While skeptical, Lucero offers to do what he can to help.
As Brian's suspicion of Colonel Trac continues to grow, he decides to reach 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 accompanies Tina to one of VACRF's social functions, where he notices Lawndale and learns of his connection to Trac and WMS. Following in his brother's footsteps, Brian sneaks into Lawndale's warehouse and successfully uncovers a cache of weapons in a shipping crate.
Taking matters into his own hands, 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, for their own safety. A distressed Tina spends the night with Brian 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 remove himself from the operation. In response, Lawndale begins to target Brian directly, sending a group of Vietnamese motorcyclists to run him 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.
Meanwhile, 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 takes Tina hostage at gunpoint. When Trac tries to wrestle the gun away, Brian crashes into the room through the window, but Lawndale shoots and kills Trac before making his escape in a stolen police car. A chaotic chase ensues, with Brian, Lucero, and the entire skateboarding crew eventually cornering Lawndale. As Lawndale prepares to shoot him, Brian soars into the air on his skateboard and knocks him out, injuring himself in the process. At the hospital, Brian tries to comfort Tina in the wake of her father's death and suggests that they go back to school together, implying that their relationship will continue. The film ends with Brian and Lucero visiting Vinh's grave before driving away.Christian Slater as Brian Kelly
Steven Bauer as Al Lucero
Richard Herd as Ed Lawndale
Le Tuan as Colonel Trac
Min Luong as Tina Trac
Art Chudabala as Vinh Kelly
Ed Lauter as Mr. Kelly
Micole Mercurio as Mrs. Kelly
Peter Kwong as Bobby Nguyen
Max Perlich as Yabbo
Tony Hawk as Buddy
Christian Jacobs as Gremic
Renowned stuntman Buddy Joe Hooker makes a cameo at the start of the chase scene's freeway segment as the driver whose Corvette gets sideswiped
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 stands at Lincoln and Tustin Avenues in the city of Orange
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 arcade scene was filmed at Tons Of Fun in the Norwichtown Mall.
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.
Professional skateboarder Stevie Williams has stated in an online interview that Slater's character in the film was his first skateboarding influence.
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.