Cocaine Bear Comedy

Review: ‘Cocaine Bear’ is a Hilarious and Thrilling Twist on the Age-Old Tale of Man Versus Beast

February 23, 2023Ben MK

Whether it's the killer shark in Jaws, the giant snake in Anaconda, or the rampaging dinosaurs in the Jurassic Park series, thrilling tales of man versus beast have captivated moviegoers for decades. Now, with Cocaine Bear, actress-turned-director Elizabeth Banks is tossing her filmmaking cap into the ring, as she assembles a talented ensemble cast to bring to the screen one of the wildest and weirdest news headlines of the '80s — the story of a 175-pound black bear with a penchant for cocaine.

The year is 1985, and a notorious drug smuggler named Andrew C. Thornton (Matthew Rhys) has decided to dump millions of dollars worth of the powdery white substance from a plane thousands of feet above Georgia's normally peaceful Chattahoochee National Forest. But when Thornton's plan to parachute safely to the ground and recover the drugs is ruined by his untimely and foolish demise, it forces his boss, St. Louis drug kingpin Syd White (the late Ray Liotta), to step in and clean up the mess. Enlisting the help of his recently widowed son, Eddie (Alden Ehrenreich), and another one of his employees, Daveed (O'Shea Jackson Jr.), Syd orders the duo to drive to Georgia and bring back the many bright red duffel bags full of cocaine scattered all around the Chattahoochee forest. What none of them ever imagined, though, was that a female black bear would beat them to the punch, earning her the nickname "Cocaine Bear" and setting into motion a series of bizarre and grisly events.

Enter Dee Dee (Brooklynn Prince) and Henry (Christian Convery), a pair of mischievous middle-schoolers ditching class to visit one of Chattahoochee's most scenic waterfalls. Instead of a lazy day off, however, they end up getting more than they bargained for, when they cross paths with the Cocaine Bear. High on the White Rock, the bear drags Dee Dee back to her cave, where her two cubs have also been partaking in the Big C. And when Dee Dee's mom, Sari (Keri Russell), sets out to rescue her daughter, she quickly discovers just how dangerous a bear hooked on drugs can be. Narrowly surviving the bear's vicious attack on themselves, a Park Ranger named Liz (Margo Martindale) and an animal-rights activist named Peter (Jesse Tyler Ferguson), Sari and Henry embark on a journey through the forest in search of Dee Dee, getting a little help from one of the bear's first victims, a hiker named Olaf (Kristofer Hivju), along the way. It's not just the Cocaine Bear they need to be worried about, though — for while Daveed and Eddie might have a soft spot in their hearts, Syd will stop at nothing till he's gotten what he wants.

Throw in a frustrated detective (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) out to put Syd behind bars before he retires, a trio of slack-jawed teenagers up to no good (Aaron Holliday, J.B. Moore and Leo Hanna), and a pair of unlucky paramedics (Scott Seiss and Kahyun Kim) who find themselves entangled in the drug-fuelled insanity, and there's certainly no shortage of potential victims for the Cocaine Bear to dismember, disembowel and decapitate. Suffice to say, while the actual events that inspired the movie may not have been nearly as ridiculously over-the-top as the ones depicted in the film itself, Banks and screenwriter Jimmy Warden don't disappoint, taking advantage of every opportunity to turn this oddball true story into one of the most effective horror comedies in recent memory.

From the undeniably enjoyable chemistry between the cast to the copious, blood-splattered mayhem wreaked by the movie's fairly realistic-looking CGI bear, it all adds up to an edge-of-your-seat, laugh-out-loud time at the multiplex. If you're anticipating a film that's more factual than not, however, you might want to reevaluate your expectations. After all, with a title like Cocaine Bear, the truth might be stranger than fiction, but when it comes to keeping audiences entertained there's no better high than pure, unadulterated escapism.

Cocaine Bear releases February 24th, 2023 from Universal Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of R for bloody violence and gore, drug content and language throughout. Its runtime is 1 hr. 35 min.

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