"Jesus Turns Addicted Gang Banger into a True Victor"
VICTOR is a powerful true story, set in the 1960s, of God’s deliverance of a young Puerto Rican immigrant in a bad neighborhood from gang rumbles and drug addiction by the founder of a string of Christian outreach facilities aimed at young drug addicts. Well-acted and produced, VICTOR presents the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a palatable form that’s not preachy, but the frequent references to the bad effects of drug abuse and some violent scenes warrant extreme caution.
VICTOR is the autobiographical tale of Victor Torres, who descended into a life of gangland crime, drug addiction, and hopelessness before being powerfully delivered by God’s mercy to become an addiction counselor and pastor.
Torres came to Brooklyn with his mother, father, and younger brother, Ricky, to experience the American dream, However, life in a rat-infested New York City tenement building in 1961 brings continuous economic and social tension. Victor joins the Roman Lords, a Puerto Rican street gang that spends its time alternating between heroin use, armed robbery and rumbles with other gangs, especially the Liberty Boys. In the opening scene, the Roman Lords crash a bar to fight the Liberty Boys, where Victor threatens the life of the rival gang’s leader, Danny, while simultaneously falling in love with Danny’s girl, Sherry.
The tightening economic situation of his family convinces Victor to become a heroin dealer for Sanchez, who controls the neighborhood’s drug and vice trade. However, his new “friends” convince him that, to sell “smack,” he first must experience it. The euphoria of the first heroin high can’t be exaggerated. Soon, the money begins pouring in, giving Victor and his increasingly suspicious parents all the material comforts they want, plus the hope they can get out of Brooklyn. Along the way, Victor introduces nearly everyone in his life, including Sherry, to drugs, although whether out of a sense of camaraderie or economic opportunism is never clear.
Meanwhile, a former native of Brooklyn’s tough Brownsville neighborhood, Jimmy, has returned to convert a former bar into the New Life Church. He takes an interest in Ricky and Victor, watching the title character’s descent from across the street. While Pastor Jimmy invites the Torres family to attend church, something they used to do in Puerto Rico, Victor proclaims that drugs are “the answer to everything.” His father, a proud papa unable to keep a job, bristles at the idea that his family’s problems can be solved by anything other than his own questionable leadership.
The joy of easy money comes to an end when Victor pays the price for asking out Sherry. Danny bursts into a malt shop and holds a shotgun to Victor’s nose. That triggers an all-out shootout in the middle of the street between the Roman Lords and the Liberty Boys. Despite Pastor Jimmy’s personal attempt to mediate peace between the two, the shootout in the death of one of Victor’s friends.
After being expelled from the gang, Victor’s parents send him to the first of many attempts at rehabilitation. Will Victor ever get “clean” and turn around his life? Will he ever find Jesus?
The performances in VICTOR are nearly perfect, with the lone exception of Victor’s younger brother remaining entirely too calm when his brother is held at gunpoint. The musical soundtrack perfectly forecasts the plot elements. For example, rock and roll music is associated with trouble, while traditional Puerto Rican music is associated with positive experiences. Also, the movie’s opening songs mix with the movie’s continual longing for “home.” Finally, the themes of relying on others, in prayer and in person, are driven home expertly.
Based on Victor’s autobiography, VICTOR does something other Christian movies have problems doing. It combines high dramatic, entertainment value with overt Christian content, including overt preaching that never sounds preachy. The filmmakers clearly show that victory can be obtained by leaning on “the everlasting arms of Jesus.” However, much of the plot and its conflict involves drugs and sometimes limited violence, so MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution for VICTOR.
(CCC, BBB, Ro, DDD, AA, VV, L, S, MM) Very strong Christian, biblical worldview, with only brief Romantic elements seeming to blame the characters’ corruption on moving to a big city, including positive references to Jesus, images of crosses, part of two separate church services, and a pastoral prayer are shown, furthermore hymnals and Bibles are shown at the conclusion of a service, three Bible verses are explicitly referenced, discussion of church attendance and Christ overcoming darkness, a reference to God’s omniscience, two characters pray together in a restroom, another character prays alone, twice a character says she’s been praying off screen, twice a drug addict prays to surrender to God, a former addict shares his testimony, twice characters reverently pray “Thank God” (once in Spanish), and a pastor shows himself a peacemaker willing to risk his own life; two light obscenities and one light “Dear God” profanity after a tragedy occurs; strong violence includes a gang fight within two minutes of the opening, a character threatens another with a broken beer bottle, characters in the fight are depicted lightly bleeding or bruised, a character slits his palm with a switchblade to become “blood brothers” during a gang initiation, character tries to kill a rat with a hammer before throwing the hammer at a neighbor’s door, gang members make guns and discuss heads exploding, a gang leader jokingly threatens violence, an old movie depicts villagers throwing clubs and rocks, an older man is shown being mugged by two youths, twice gang members smash a window to rob a location, a gunshot hits a chandelier but harms no one, a shotgun blast hits a wall but injures no one, a character holds a shotgun to another character’s head and threatens his life as another holds a switchblade to his throat, a character punches another in the stomach, a gang shootout takes place and leaves one person dead, one character brandishes a switchblade but does no damage with it, a character pulls a pistol on an unarmed character; light sexual content includes a veiled reference to off-screen prostitution, a kiss on the cheek, young men are shown with their arms around young women’s necks, a boyfriend and girlfriend embrace, a husband kisses his wife’s hand and shoulder; no nudity, but a blurry woman in the background wears a swimsuit at the beach; alcohol use includes a scene where during a bar fight characters hold beer bottles but don’t drink, a reference to a woman’s name being the same as the name of an alcoholic drink, and characters drink at a later party; brief smoking and themes of illicit drug use and abuse such as a character mixes drugs in front of a child, twice heroin is shown being readied for injection, depiction of a drug scale and drugs at a dealer’s house, a character is shown hiding drugs in a room she shares with a young boy, twice the main character is depicted going through withdrawal symptoms and a young woman and an entire gang is shown coping with early withdrawal during a “dry” spell, six times characters use drugs but the injection takes place off-screen, twice a character refers to using methadone off-screen, a character chugs an opiate elixir during a pharmacy robbery, one discussion of how to cut heroin and how to mix a substitute out of over-the-counter medicines, one drug overdose takes place off-screen, another character suffers a near-overdose, twice drug paraphernalia is depicted on screen, an artistic rendering depicts drug paraphernalia; and, a desire for material comfort leads the main character to deal drugs and his parents to overlook his activities, character is depicted as addicting his friends on drugs for financial gain, and characters are depicted finding ways out of being cured of drug addiction.
VICTOR is a powerfully dramatic account of Victor Torres, a Puerto Rican immigrant whose life plunged into drug sales and addiction in early 1960s Brooklyn. Torres comes to Brooklyn with his mother, father and younger brother, Ricky, to experience the American dream. However, life in a rat-infested New York City tenement building in 1961 brings continuous economic and social tension. Victor joins the Roman Lords, a Puerto Rican street gang, and becomes a drug addict. He even sells drugs to his friends. Can Victor get “clean” and turn around his life? Will he find Jesus?
The performances in VICTOR are nearly perfect – except for a scene where Victor’s younger brother stays too calm when his brother is held at gunpoint. The musical soundtrack perfectly forecasts the plot developments. Best of all, VICTOR has a strong Christian worldview with many overt references to Christianity and Jesus, including prayer, church and a brave pastor who helps the title character. MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution due to some gang violence and many overt drug references, but the ending in VICTOR is extremely redemptive without being preachy.