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‘Gleaming the Cube’ (PG-13)

By Richard Harrington
Washington Post Staff Writer
January 16, 1989

"Gleaming the Cube" is a slight skateboard thriller that looks more like one of those "Afterschool Specials" on television than a bona fide feature film. It centers on teens gathered together in their subculture (skateboarding here, but it could just as well be surfing, dirt-biking, dune-buggying or thrash metal) and gives it a little mystery twist.

Brian Kelly (Christian Slater) is a standard-issue outcast (or typecast) teen rebel, somewhat envious of his adopted Vietnamese brother's success as both A-student and white sheep of the family. When Vinh (Art Chudabala) apparently commits suicide, Brian refuses to believe it and sets out, on skateboard, to find out what really happened and eventually to avenge his brother's murder.

In his quest, Brian is aided by a cynical detective (Steven Bauer), assorted skating buddies and a beautiful Vietnamese girl (Minh Luong). The plot, once uncovered, seems rather odd and convoluted, but maybe that's what director Graeme Clifford needed to justify the various skateboard chases. And while Clifford probably thinks "Gleaming the Cube" is about familial confusions, or Vietnamese refugee culture, it's really about chases and the ever-lengthening gaps in Hollywood between fantasy and reality.

Incidentally, the chases are pretty good, particularly the ones through a subdivision and out on a freeway. Ridiculous, but good.

Slater is up to the role of Brian, vacuously rebellious until his brother's death leads him to clean up his act so he can infiltrate the bad guys' defenses. To young teens, particularly fellow skateboarders, his efforts, both on the board and with a comb, will seem Herculean; the rest of the world will simply wonder what the film's title means (hint: it's very Zen).

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