Cocaine Bear – Movie Review

TL;DR – It is a film about a bear high on cocaine running amok. I am not sure I need to say much more than that.     

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Post-Credit Scene – There are two mid-credit scenes

Disclosure – I was invited to a press screening of this film.

A Bloody phone hangs.

Cocaine Bear Review

There are many reasons why a film can capture your attention. Maybe it is the cast, a name that immediately makes you intrigued? Could it be the genre, another period romance, or a sci-fi epic? They are the only two genres, apparently. But in rare moments, a film’s title can immediately hook you. This week we have just a movie because, if nothing else, the name Cocaine Bear is instantly provocative and makes you want to work out what the heck is going on.

So to set the scene, it is 1984, and the small town of Knoxville, Tennessee, wakes up to bundles of cocaine that started falling from the sky after a drug drop went very wrong. While some landed in suburbia, most of the stash lands in the state forest near Chattahoochee, Georgia. When the drug runners catch up to the cocaine, they find a surprise waiting for them, a 500 lb (230 kg) American black bear currently consuming their property. But this is a public park, and there is more than just the drug runners walking around. I mean, what’s the worst that half a ton of muscle and claw do when high as a kite? Cue the fatalities.

The cocaine bear in full bloody vigour.
Cocaine Bear does make a striking image. Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Before we go on, I do feel the need to clarify the based-on-a-true-story part of the film. Did cocaine fall out of a plane and land in a forest? Yes. Did a bear eat that cocaine? Absolutely! Did anything else in this film happen? Not in any way. This is a film that understands that the power of the title transcends reality and leans into that. It is not historically accurate, but I don’t think it needs to be.

Well, I have to respect a film that so understands itself that it puts a litmus test in the first five minutes of the film. If you missed the entire context of the film, the first hiker that gets ripped limb from limb is probably the best indication of where things are going. Though, to be fair, I don’t think even that adequately prepares you for some of the stuff that goes down in this film: one word, Ambulance. Cocaine Bear is a film that will get bloody and gory and then gets more bloody and gory when you least suspect it too.   

A claw reaches from behind the tree.
While there could have been more moments of tension, the ones we get are fascinating. Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

It also helps the cast and filmmakers fundamentally know what film they are in and how best to play into it. Margo Martindale captivates every scene she is in, commanding every moment that makes you want to see what happens next. She might also have the moment of the film that left the audience gasping in the screening I was at. Christian Convery is a delight; every moment he is on screen, he makes it better for being there. Keri Russell understood what kind of film this was and became an interesting counterpoint to the bear. Also, it is just lovely to see Alden Ehrenreich back on the big screen, and his banter with O’Shea Jackson Jr. is a delight.

The bear itself is an interesting design in that it is both photo-real and shifted just a touch to give a hint of stylization. This provides the bear with just the suggestion of it not being a real creature so you can throw it into the monster camp. But then, you are a little sympathetic towards it because it was not its fault it got hooked on cocaine, which creates moments when you want the humans to survive and then moments when you find yourself supporting the bear, which is an odd juxtaposition to be in at times.

Children scream at the coming bear.
Cocaine Bear is a film that very much knows what it wants to be. Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Now is this a perfect film? No, not at all. There is a point where there is a complete shift in tone as the film goes on in its third act. I am not sure Cocaine Bear quite ever finds its feet after this, and, unfortunately, the film peters out rather than end on a high note. Also, unfortunately, I am not sure they ever effectively integrated Ray Liotta’s character into the mix. He was one of a couple of characters that didn’t quite hit the mark. Also, this film sometimes struggles as it oscillates between brutal murders and more comedic elements.     

In the end, do we recommend Cocaine Bear? Ah, well, let’s be honest. I think you already know if Cocaine Bear is a film for you or not, just from the title. Do you want to see a coked-out bear romping its way through a Georgian forest, mauling all who come into his path? If the answer is yes, then this is the film for you. If you liked Cocaine Bear, I would recommend to you Violent Night.    

By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.

Have you watched Cocaine Bear?, let us know what you thought in the comments below, feel free to share this review on any of the social medias and you can follow us
Here. Check out all our past reviews and articles Here, and have a happy day. 

Credits –
All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Cocaine Bear
Directed by
– Elizabeth Banks
Written by – Jimmy Warden
Music by – Mark Mothersbaugh
Cinematography by – John Guleserian
Edited by – Joel Negron
Production/Distribution Companies – Lord Miller Productions, Brownstone Productions, Jurassic Party Productions & Universal Pictures.
Starring – Keri Russell, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Alden Ehrenreich, Christian Convery, Brooklynn Prince, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Ray Liotta, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Aaron Holliday, Margo Martindale, Matthew Rhys, Kristofer Hivju, Hannah Hoekstra, Scott Seiss, Kahyun Kim, J.B. Moore & Ayoola Smart
Rating – Australia: MA15+; Canada: 18A; Germany: na; New Zealand: R; United Kingdom: 15; United States: R


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