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Film / Gleaming the Cube

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Brian: Adults are predictable.
Vinh: Don't count on it.
Brian: Yeah? They're living under this illusion that life as we know it is gonna continue forever, so they expect you to behave as though what you do today is gonna have an effect on where you'll be in 30 years. (Beat) l mean, it's ridiculous to think there's gonna be anything in 30 years, you know? l don't know what's worse, you know? Being blown up in a nuclear war or having a 7-Eleven on every corner.

A 1989 movie starring Christian Slater, Gleaming the Cube features the exploits of Brian Kelly, who has an adopted Vietnamese brother named Vinh Kelly. Vinh dates a girl named Tina Trac, and he's the straight-arrow kid who, unlike Brian, never gets busted by the cops. As an example, Brian gets busted for illegally skateboarding in someone's emptied pool. Meanwhile, Vinh is fixing up Brian's geometry homework.

Brian is your typical 80s skateboarder kid, a lot more interested in hanging out with his skating buddies than in keeping up with his school work. Unfortunately for him, reality intervenes when Vinh gets a little too curious about the activities of the VACRF, an anti-Communist organization whose stated purpose is to send medical supplies to Vietnam.

This film is a minor cult classic among people who remember The '80s, but for the most part it tends to be overshadowed by Slater's later, far more memorable works Heathers and Pump Up the Volume.


The meaning of "gleaming the cube" is defined In-Universe as pushing yourself beyond the limit of what is normally possible - if you envision the normal limits of possibility as a cube, if you're beyond that limit then you're outside the cube and can polish the surface to make it shine.

Note that this page will have unmarked spoilers about the movie.

This film contains examples of:

  • Accidental Murder: Brian's adoptive brother, Vinh, is killed when the VACRF mooks question him about what he was doing in their warehouse.
  • Bad Boss: Lawndale is not exactly hesitant about killing underlings.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Eight of Brian's friends all come zooming down towards Lawndale's stolen car as Brian himself comes up behind Lawndale to try and stop him from getting away.
  • Covert Group with Mundane Front: The VACRF, ostensibly an anti-Communist medical relief organization, is actually running weapons to resistance groups in Vietnam.
  • Dirty Communists:
    • Averted with Vinh. The mook who works for Colonel Trac tries to claim Vinh is one, and Lawndale, the owner of the transshipment facility, dismisses that, pointing out Vinh is a teenager.
    • Played straight in that Vietnam was only just beginning its economic reforms (Doi Moi) at the time.
  • Dynamic Entry: Lawndale threatens Colonel Trac, upon which Brian skateboards into the room by shattering a window.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Early in the film, when a hotel manager refers to Vinh as "Chinese," Lucero doesn't hesitate to correct him that Vinh is Vietnamese. When the manager claims that "they all look alike," Lucero bluntly retorts, "No they don't."
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: At least some versions of the movie contain subtitles which say "Rip!" when a truck driver is clearly yelling "Shit!"
    • During the scene where Brian and Lucero talk in Bobby Nguyen's apartment, if you watch their mouths closely, they say the phrase "fuck-up" multiple times, but the lines were re-dubbed as "screw-up," presumably to avoid earning the film an R-rating.
  • It's Quiet… Too Quiet: Vinh goes on his lonesome (without telling anyone) to see just what the transshipment company is up to with the VACRF's "medical supplies". There's absolutely nobody else in the warehouse and it's eerily quiet in there.
  • Oh, Crap!: When Vinh is killed, the bad guys collectively get these expressions on their faces as they realize they've screwed up badly.
    • Similarly with Lawndale's mooks during the interrogation scenes. Whenever Lucero questions them about who hired them, they would only speak to each other in Vietnamese. However, when Lucero tries to ask them again with a Vietnamese speaking officer in the room, the look on their faces when he talks to them before providing Lucero the answer of "Lawndale" is this.
  • So Much for Stealth: Vinh unknowingly sets off a silent alarm which causes Lawndale's mooks to move in on the warehouse to find him. When Vinh realizes he's going to be caught, he tries to escape.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: For an 80's action B-movie, there are several instances of reality intruding in on the film:
    • When Lawndale's mooks chase Brian on motorcycles, they all wind up crashing and getting arrested.
    • Though it's done for comic effect, Lawndale tries to make a getaway in a stolen police car, but his driver has never driven a police car before. The driver has trouble figuring out how to work the lights and sirens, turning on the wipers instead.
    • Brian sustains several injuries during the climax of the film that put him in the hospital.
  • Wiper Start: Lawndale tries to make a getaway in a stolen police car, but his driver has never driven a police car before. The driver has trouble figuring out how to work the lights and sirens, turning on the wipers instead.