Al Pacino as Scarface in the 1982 film saw his Cuban refugee arrive in Florida and climb the rungs to become a drug king pin only to fatally crash back to earth. It’s a film that bizarrely seen as an aspirational tale by many rappers who choose to ignore the fact that Pacino’s character gets riddled with bullets at the end. The truth is that drug dealing is far from the glamour normally portrayed and writer–director Henry Blake’s film County Lines is grimly realistic. Focusing on Tyler (Conrad Khan) a 14 year old boy and loving brother to his younger sister and a son to his single mother Toni (Ashley Madekwe) who struggles to cope with an ever more disruptive Tyler.
Right from the get go it’s clear that Tyler is handful sitting there listening to a female counsellor’s disembodied voice his eyes burning with insolence, anger and contempt as she tries to alert him to the trouble that he’s got himself into and that ultimately the company he’s been keeping see him as little more than a disposable asset. What it is that he has got himself into is drug running having been befriended by Simon (Harris Dickinson) a BMW driving dealer himself only one rung further up the ladder telling the impressionable teen that he’s an entrepreneur whereas the truth is that Simon’s a petty criminal only too happy to take advantage of children if it makes his life easier and more importantly makes him money with little risk to himself. So having initiated Tyler into a life of easy money he gets him running drugs outside of London to rural or market towns or coastal locations, the county lines in question. Tyler’s increasing truancy and his mispalced confidence has him believing that he is the man of the house resulting in a face-off with his mother that is hard to watch. ‘I don’t understand who I’m talking to’ she tells Tyler finding herself unable to handle a hormone confused teen with no guiding father figure in his life that is all too depressingly familiar.
The attention to facts is impressive and will be an eye opener to many. From a 14 year having to hide a drug package where the sun doesn’t shine….and it’s not Hull, to the horrific consequences when Tyler unwittingly strays onto another gangs patch and the realization that he is not quite the Billy Big Bollocks he thinks he is with eye watering results. County Lines is unflinching in detail and perhaps it’s just as well because what is depicted here is taken from real life where chavvy chicken shops are as much a recruitment centre as they are centres of excellence for food poisoning.
With all round good performances County Lines is essential viewing for teenagers and parents alike because in one brilliant moment between Tyler’s mum and Simon these kids are disposable foot soldiers easily replaced and no parent wants to see their child become part of a seemingly never ending cycle.
Here’s the County Lines trailer…….