Cocaine Bear Movie Review (Spoiler Free)
The craziest part about this violent spoof is the fact that it is inspired by a true story. It also marks Ray Liotta’s last on-screen appearance.
Genre: Comedy / Horror / Thriller
Director: Elizabeth Banks
Cast: Kerri Russell, Alden Ehrenreich, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Isaiah Whitlock Jr., Christian Convery, Brooklynn Prince, Margo Martindale, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Ayoola Smart & Ray Liotta.
Run Time: 95 min.
US Release: 24 February 2023
UK Release: 24 February 2023
German Release: 13 April 2023
I love me a good trash flick that knows how to entertain! Ever since the first trailer of this horror-comedy dropped online, I had circled its release date on my calendar. I love a well elaborate movie, with a solid, structured plot and decent cinematography, but sometimes I just want to be entertained in the silliest form, like with Plane early this year. With the trailer having set the vibe of this production, I pretty much knew what to expect. So, does the premise live up to the title? Grab your trekking poles, as we hike through my review for Cocaine Bear…
When a shipment of cocaine is lost over the area of Georgia, a strange group of criminals, cops, park rangers, civilians, teenage delinquents and tourists stumble upon each other in the nearby forest, where a fully grown black bear is rampaging the area, having accidentally ingested the white powder.
Jimmy Warden wrote a spec script, loosely inspired by the 1985 real events surrounding a 79 kilogram (175 pounds) heavy American black bear, who ingested a duffle bag containing around 34 Kilos (75 lb) of cocaine. The animal, who died sometime after the consumption of narcotics, was found three months later in northern Georgia, alongside 40 opened plastic bags of the substance. The most notable liberty taken, while writing the screenplay, is the deadly rampage the Ursidae went on, when high. The real “cocaine bear” never killed anyone.
Right off the bat, the highest praise I can give this trash-flick is that it knows exactly the type of movie it wants to be, not taking itself seriously for one second! The narrative includes all kinds of shenanigans, ramping up what really happened to insanity. The jokes do not always work, though it is hilariously stupid, entertaining from beginning to end. In a nutshell; it is a simple, funny, yet very gory “man vs. nature” story that roots for the bear!
Now, as stated in the prior paragraph, the comedy fails when it tries to be funny. Jokes sometimes feel too forced, with the comedic timing not always on point. It is also a little messy in terms of tone, not sure what route of horror-comedy it wants to take. It jumps from profanity to deadpan sarcasm, to slapstick parody, to funny shock value, making it seem a little directionless.
Much of the humour comes from the vulgarity in dialogues, paired with the bloody visuals. Characters swear a lot, while also coming to terms with decisions made in their lives. Having said that, conversations are never really deep, more half-baked.
The plot is broken up into three groups of people, none of whom are really explored. The characters serve more as punching bags, for the animal to release its rage. This was also confirmed in an interview by Banks herself, who stated: “This movie could be seen as the bear’s revenge story”, basically stating that the main character is the titular animal.
The first group, conceived of Kerri Russell, Brooklynn Prince and Christian Convery, represent the innocent family. Russell portrays a single mom, in search of her pre-teen daughter, who ran away after crossing paths with the Ursidae. Convery, plays the daughter’s best friend Henry, being possibly the funniest of the whole cast. The family dynamic is believable with the three giving their best with the little they obtained.
Then there are the criminals, who in turn run into the police. This group is comprised of a fun O’Shea Jackson Jr, an overly sensitive Alden Ehrenreich (whose emotional state wasn’t funny, no matter how much they tried to), a sweet rendition of Isiah Whitlock Jr. as a police detective, just like Ray Liotta’s last performance as a crazed drug kingpin.
Finally, we have the last group of teenage delinquents and park rangers. This includes one of the craziest chase scenes with the coked-up carnivore.
Technically, this bloody mockery is filmed competently, using solid framing and composition. The runtime is kept short, yet the editing needs to balance one plotline too many, which does cause uneven pacing at times. The strong colours of 80s clothing, juxtapose the natural greens plus browns. The night-time sequences can be a little too dark at times, making it difficult to see what is happening on screen.
Weta FX was hired to digitally create the bear, which at times is visibly CG. Nonetheless, it is still rendered well enough without being distracting. The gore is a mix of computer imagery plus practical effects, and while the shock value is effective, it could have gone a little bloodier. That said, it is the over-the-top carnage that makes for the best hysterical moments.
The soundtrack combines 80s synthesiser tunes plus funky beats, with darkly ominous, dramatic trumpet tunes and rocky riffs. Popular music of that era is also incorporated. The trailer made use of the hip-hop recording “White Lines (Don’t Don’t Do It)”, by Grandmaster Melle Mel.
Verdict: I am happy to see a big studio like Universal give a low-budget, B-movie-like trash film a chance like this. The narrative is based on real-life events that transpired in 1985, when a fully grown black bear, ingested nearly 35 kilos of cocaine. The rampage the animal goes on, is fictionalised, cranking up the insanity to eleven. The script is simple, the runtime short, though the many unnecessary side arcs do at times interfere with the pacing. The complete cast gives fairly good performances, considering the limited material they had to work with. Star of the whole premise is the Ursidae, who is pitched against all the human characters. The camera work is solid, the effects can sometimes be a little iffy. It isn’t flawless and definitely could have been developed better, but I had a blast nonetheless, laughing from beginning to end. As such, Cocaine Bear obtains a 6.5 out of 10.
So, have you seen Elizabeth Banks’ newest feature yet? What did you think of this coked-up spoof, based on a true story? Leave your comment below & thank you for reading!