Cocaine Bear — a dark comedy about a 500-pound black bear, who consumes an obscene amount of cocaine and goes on a killing rampage — is just about as over the top as the title suggests.
While the premise sounds absurd, it is actually (and loosely) inspired by true events. In 1985, drug smuggler Andrew C. Thorton II emptied containers of cocaine into the wilderness before abandoning the plane. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation later discovered a deceased black bear with 75 pounds of cocaine in its system.
That’s about all that is faithful to the real story in the movie. In reality, the bear never harmed any humans. Director Elizabeth Banks (Charlie’s Angels) and screenwriter Jimmy Warden have taken creative liberties to create a completely bonkers story filled with violence and gore.
The opening scene of the film depicts Andrew C. Thorton II (Matthew Rhys) tossing duffle bags of cocaine off the plane before finally strapping on a parachute to abandon the plane. Unfortunately, Thornton hits his head as he takes the leap, knocking him out cold with his chute never opening. While we’re not confident that’s the reason why Thorton’s chute did not open, this scene sets up the vibe of what the rest of the movie will be.
We later meet a gaggle of characters from all different walks of life who all somehow end up at the Chattahoochee National Forest, exactly where Cocaine Bear is in pursuit of its next fix. We meet Sari (Keri Russell) a mother in search of her daughter, Dee Dee (Brooklynn Prince) and her friend Henry (Christian Convery), who skipped school to go to the waterfall; Eddie (Alden Ehrenreich) and Daveed (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) who have been sent to recover the lost packages of cocaine by Syd (Ray Liotta); Detective Bob (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) who’s determined to track down the lost drugs; and Park Ranger Liz (Margo Martindale), who takes her job entirely too seriously.
There were high expectations from the audiences prior to the viewing — with hopes to see a fully “coked out” bear going berserk on anyone in its path. The film did not disappoint as it leaned into its insane premise of its title. Though there are some heartfelt moments, the true excitement lies in the bear’s attacks on its unsuspecting victims. Each encounter gets more violent and surreal — almost excessive — at times. This may not have worked in other genre-related films but Cocaine Bear is so self-aware in its carnage that it leaves the audience wanting the next scene to be bigger and bloodier. While the film did not leave any room for real character development, the friendship between Daveed and Eddie did stand out as one to become invested in.
Cocaine Bear is a fun-filled 95 minutes on screen, complete with a rocking ‘80s needle drop, laugh-out-loud moments, and heart. Even with the exaggerated amount of gore and violence, I found myself being pulled into the hype of it all. Enjoy Cocaine Bear for what it is, a dark comedy of bloody mayhem.
Score: 3.5 / 5