‘Cocaine Bear’ Is One Wild and Bloody Trip [Review]

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Cocaine Bear

With a name like Cocaine Bear, you probably already know what to expect. And if what you expected was a parody of cartel movies full of blood, guts, and a girl boss bear, then I have great news for you. Elizabeth Banks is back in the director’s chair for a ridiculous, bloody, drug-fueled romp through the Georgia woods. If you thought M3GAN was the cinematic experience of the year, Cocaine Bear says, “hold my line” and rips through you like, well, a bear on a lot of cocaine.

If I were a more poetic writer, I’d perhaps make a connection between the angry, drug-stuffed bear and the ways that drugs ravage people, families, and communities. But Cocaine Bear is not a movie for metaphors. Instead, it’s just here to give you one helluva ride. Based on a true story, it all starts with a man and hundreds of pounds of cocaine trying to parachute out of a plane. Classic drug smuggling scenario. Unfortunately, our dear drug trafficker doesn’t stick the landing. His corpse, and his cargo, are swiftly discovered by our titular bear. Thus begins the epic saga of the Cocaine Bear.

That cocaine belongs to kingpin Syd Dentwood (the late Ray Liotta) and he will do anything to get it back. So he sends his son Eddie (Alden Ehrenreich) and fixer Daveed (O’Shea Jackson, Jr.) to retrieve the goods. Meanwhile, single mother Sari (Keri Russell) heads to the same woods looking for her missing daughter (Brooklynn Prince). She crosses paths with a park ranger (Margo Martindale) and a researcher (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) who help with her search. These groups, plus a few hapless stoners and a grizzled cop, all converge in the Georgia wilderness where they soon discover where exactly all the cocaine is going.

This is a stacked ensemble cast, but the true standouts are Martindale and Ferguson. Pining for Ferguson’s character, Martindale delivers a perfectly pathetic performance as a park ranger who’s just looking for love. Their banter back and forth, even when just in the background, is hysterical as she tries, and fails, to flirt through a shared love of nature and biology. But everyone is on their comedy A-game, matching the energy needed for such a film with chaotic glee.

Then there’s our star: the bear. But our bear is not just any bear. Brought to life by the experts at Wētā, it’s to be expected that the digital creation is so realistic looking. But it’s not just how real it looks. This is a black bear with personality. She has curious facial expressions, scared expressions—she’s not just a mean animal, but a character that evokes empathy at moments (which is definitely not what I expected from a movie called Cocaine Bear). And yes they reveal this is a female bear. Good for her.

This is a gore-geous movie, with the bear shredding human flesh and faces dragging across the pavement. Banks paints with a viscera-packed brush, delivering disgusting kill after disgusting kill and never wavering in her dedication to just Go For It. They’re the type of kills that’ll make you groan, laugh, and yell all at the same time. That’s why this is the perfect communal movie-watching experience, a nasty romp that once again proves that horror movies are back, baby.

But Banks and writer Jimmy Warden don’t just make a gory slasher movie; they deliver a hilarious parody of the shoot-out-filled heist movies like Miami Vice and American Gangster. It takes those familiar tropes, such as tense shoot-outs between cops and bad guys, and throws in a coked-out bear for ridiculous comedic effect. And it works. It’s the king of all complications. Why just have a traitor on the team when you could have an angry bear in the mix, too? There are no bad guys when you’re all trying to escape the jaws of a drug-addled predator.

Cocaine Bear delivers what it promises on the box and then some. While the premise feels thin at moments, Banks delivers an entertaining film that’s never afraid to get weird, get funny, and get disgusting. So break out the mirrors and dollar bills because Cocaine Bear is one party you won’t want to miss.


Break out the mirrors and dollar bills because Cocaine Bear is one party you won’t want to miss.

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