Nicky Cruz is a violent, out-of-control young boy who is sent to New York to live with his older brother in 1950's Brooklyn. A Puerto Rican immigrant with no respect for authority or any knowledge of the English language, Nicky drops out of school within weeks of arriving in New York and is driven out of his brothers' home as well.
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Nicky finds himself desperate with no food or a place to live, and he nervously commits his first robbery to survive. On the streets with no friends or family to turn too, Nicky eventually joins the infamous 'Mau Mau' street gang, who become his 'family'. Nicky would spend several years in the gang, being its President during the gangs' most violent and often recorded period of criminal activity in the mid to late 1950's.
In 1958, a Pennsylvania preacher named David Wilkerson meets with the Mau Mau's and is nearly killed by Nicky, who decides to attend one of Wilkersons' arena meetings so that the gang can rob the offering. Instead, Wilkerson moves Cruz to attempt to abandon his violent, drug and sex filled gang existence and change his life into something positive.
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