You kids probably don’t remember “The Cross and the Switchblade,”a 1970 faith-based film that leaned heavily on “West Side Story” for its setting, Pat Boone and Erik Estrada as its preacher and gang-bangers, and every movie Billy Graham ever made for its story arc.
“Victor” is a similar tale of a Puerto Rican gang-banger/drug dealer’s redemption thanks to an inner city preacher and a mother (Lisa Vidal) who eventually starts questioning all the appliances her violent, sometimes addicted son (Patrick Davis) provides to their struggling family in early 1960s Brooklyn.
It’s a drab pastiche of “West Side Story” cliches missing one pivotal ingredient. Where’s “Officer Krupke?”
All these gang “pops,” all the zip guns, poolhall rumbles, drug dealing (not really shown) and shoot outs in the diner, or in the middle of the streets — never a cop in sight.
Kid fires a pump shotgun in a crowded diner, threatening to blast the title character, and all the owner of the joint can do is yell, “You boys get OUTTA here or I’m gonna call THE POLICE!”
Which he doesn’t do. Teenager in a leather jacket has just shot a hole in his wall in front of a lot of paying customers, nothing happens.
Not indoors, anyway. The shootout in the street — blandly staged, filmed and edited — follows that. No cops there, either.
At least that takes the “story” further down the hole that only our inner city preacher (Josh Pence, every bit as dull as Pat Boone in “Switchblade”) can save Victor from in this “inspired by a true story” movie.
There’s the girl from the “other” gang (Haley Ramm) who can never be Victor’s “girl.” Even though his gang is integrated.
Victor isn’t an interesting character in the first place, and a colorless performance and rote situations — losing a job, losing a pal to violence, rehab — give us little to latch onto here.
Poor, ineffectual Dad (José Zúñiga) comes off worse, the man who brought his family to New York from PR, but cannot keep a job, cannot “stand up for yourself” when he’s mugged, can’t allow himself to question where his kid is suddenly getting all this cash.
The “true story” here is of Pastor Victor Torres, who preached in Richmond, Va. But that doesn’t change its sad, worn “Cross and the Switchblade” borrowings.
There are plenty of inspiring faith-based stories worth telling. Why recycle the worst of the worst?
At least the soundtrack, peppered with (mostly) original pop, jazz and rock from the era, makes this clunker sound like an A-picture, when C is the best it can manage otherwise.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic material involving drug abuse, and some violence
Cast: Patrick Davis, Lisa Vidal, Haley Ramm, Josh Pence, Rick Gonzalez, Matt Angel, Nick Eversman and José Zúñiga.
Credits: Directed by Brandon Dickerson, script by Brandon Dickerson, Thomas Ward. An Ocean Avenue/Netflix release.
Running time: 1:41