Victor: Up From the Streets

In the 1960s, Victor Torres grew up in the shadow of Brooklyn, New York’s Roman Lords, a rumbling gang of young men who found joy in street fights and rush of heroin addiction. Based on the autobiographical Son of Evil Street, the theatrical release Victor shares how Victor, his mother, and his faith rose above the trouble that threatened to envelop him.

Intersecting with David Wilkerson’s story from the well-known Christian film The Cross & The Switchblade, the film shows how Victor’s transition from Puerto Rico to Brooklyn was troubled by poverty, culture, and his own adolescence. Victor (Patrick Davis) must navigate the issues facing his mother, Lila (Lisa Vidal), father, Manuel (Jose Zuniga), and little brother, Ricky (Mason Davis), and the pull of the drug dealer, Sanchez (Lobo Sebastian), after Pablo (Rick Gonzalez) gets him a job dealing heroin. Even as the drug trade draws him closer to the edge and a new love finds him in the crosshairs of the rival gang, the Liberty Boys, the arrival of Jimmy (Josh Pence) and the New Life Church signals a new hope is around the corner.

Behind a solid cast, strong score (era appropriate music!), and a steadily-advancing story, Victor shares a poignant, exciting portrayal of one young man’s descent into a dangerous lifestyle and the powerful, saving grace of God. Jimmy tells Lila that the church he is planting is based on I Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” This is the grace of God at work in the life of Victor Torres, his family, the gang that adopts him, and the community of Brooklyn, NY.

The transformation is tremendous; after watching Victor chase the rabbits of drugs, women, and relationships down the hole, we see how his family’s newfound faith helped pull him back from the imagined world he’s created. While the young man who desired to be the white knight has been lost in addiction and violence, the way his mother prays for him proves to be a difference maker. In fact, one of my favorite scenes, Victor’s mother kneels to pray in the bathroom, and Ricky asks, ‘Can God hear you in here?’ ‘Yes, I think so,’ she replies. And so they pray for Victor, over and over and over again.

The film explores a wealth of issues that were important in 1962 and still carry weight today, set against a life-and-death backdrop of violence, drugs, and gang life. Who are we and why are we here? What does our family look like and how do we build a new community in a new place? What does it mean to be saved from the dangers we find ourselves in, willingly or not? How can we experience salvation in Christ in a way that changes our lives in the here and now?

Initially released in Puerto Rico to an impressive $3,216 per-screen average (BoxOfficeMojo), the film will now be distributed through Ocean Avenue Entertainment in theaters in New York City and Brooklyn, N.Y., San Marcos and El Paso, TX., and Richmond, VA. While the ministry that changed Victor’s life was in New York, it’s in Richmond that Torres established the New Life for Youth ministry for teens struggling with addiction in 1971. Since then, he and his wife, Carmen, have founded drug recovery programs in the country, including The Men’s Ranch, Mercy House and Mercy Mom’s House.

In Victor, we see how grace shows up just in time, and when grace changes Victor, it impacts everyone around him, hundreds of young adults and fifty years later.