Before I cover Cocaine Bear, I’d like to set the stage with some facts about the real-life bear this movie is based upon.
Cocaine Bear is loosely based on a real-life incident that occurred in the 1980’s. An American Black Bear consumed millions of dollars worth of lost cocaine in Tennessee and later died in Georgia. His nickname is Pablo Eskobear. He’s stuffed and you can view him at a mall in Kentucky. You can read more about him here.
That said, let’s jump into the movie.
This is a spoiler-free review.
Universal Pictures’s comedy horror mash-up Cocaine Bear follows Sari (Keri Russell), a mother looking for her daughter who skipped school with the help of park rangers Peter (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) and Liz (Margot Martindale). We also follow Syd White (Ray Liotta), a kingpin who tasks Daveed (O’Shea Jackson Jr.), with retrieving scattered duffle bags of cocaine. Eddie (Alden Ehrenreich), Syd’s son, joins Daveed on his mission to collect the contraband. All cross paths in Chattahoochee-Ocnee National Forest with different goals in mind and a black bear hellbent on more drugs and more blood is the only obstacle in their way.
This movie thrives because it knows exactly what it is. At its core, Cocaine Bear is a comedy horror B-movie up there with the likes of Sharknado. It benefits from a short runtime. Nearly all aspects of its ludicrous premise are explored within the time allotted. Clocking in at only 95 minutes, Cocaine Bear is an adult-themed visual roller coaster you can strap yourself in to for an hour and a half. The only drawback is the script is bloated with a few too many human characters it has to keep up with, and as a result, an hour and a half ends up feeling more like two.
You’d think in a movie with a murderous bear on cocaine, this wouldn’t be a problem.
That isn’t to say that all of the human characters are cardboard cut-outs, though. O’Shea Jackson Jr. and Alden Ehrenreich absolutely steal the spotlight as Daveed and Eddie. I found myself rather invested in their story; and should Cocaine Bear ever receive a sequel, those are the two characters I would like to see fleshed out more. They had a lot of on-screen chemistry and had riffs that were reminiscent of Kangaroo Jack.
Margot Martindale delivers a hilarious performance as Ranger Liz. The way she delivers her lines really sells the audience on her role as a park ranger with bags under her eyes.
As for the bear, the CGI is fairly realistic. It helps tell the story without being too distracting. It borders the line between realism and comedy and that’s exactly what this movie needed.
This film marks the first posthumous release for Ray Liotta. According to his Wikipedia page, he has four more films set to release. At least three out of the four horror related.
Verdict (4 out of 5 stars)
So, does Cocaine Bear deliver on its premise? In my opinion, yes, but it left me wanting more. I really wanted to like this movie more than I did. The kills are gory as hell. Some are even used as the butt of a joke, which solidifies the dark humor that Cocaine Bear strives for.
I wish the bear had more screen time.
Speaking of screen time, the runtime is perfect for adults who have a busy schedule. If you’re a B-movie enthusiast craving something unhinged and off the wall with dark as well as tongue-in-cheek humor — this is the movie for you.
The genres may clash in other settings, but in this case they actually help the movie. There are some genuinely terrifying moments because of the unpredictability of the bear. Cocaine Bear thrives on shock value. It’s how most of its jokes land. It’s how most of its scares land. For a good portion of the movie it balances between horror and comedy perfectly and in ways I never thought possible.
In the end, Cocaine Bear doesn’t blow, but it’ll likely leave you wanting more. Like I mentioned earlier, this movie benefits from a short runtime. Personally, I wish it was actually a little bit shorter. Maybe I’m impatient, but there were some scenes towards the end where all I could think was “OK, but when’s the bear coming back?” and that took me out of the experience.
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