While not as funny as the premise promises, it still delivers gratuitous levels of graphic, entertaining violence.

Sometimes all you need is a title, and the rest will follow. Supposedly “inspired” by a true story,  Cocaine Bear is a campy comedy-horror about an eclectic group of people who encounter a black bear that goes on a killing rampage after consuming copious amounts of cocaine dropped out of a plane over a Georgia forest. While this film can’t live up to the comedic expectations of its ludicrous premise, it still delivers gratuitous levels of graphic, entertaining violence.

It’s 1985 and a drug smuggler drops a large amount of cocaine from his plane while airborne but dies when he falls to his death after knocking himself out on the doorframe. Much of the white powder falls into a forest in Georgia where some of it is eaten by a black bear who becomes murderously aggressive while high on the drug and while looking for her next hit.

Police detective Bob (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) takes it upon himself to go searching for the missing narcotics in the forest while, unbeknown to him, competing with Daveed (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) and Eddie (Alden Ehrenreich), a pair of enforcers who’ve been sent to retrieve the drugs on behalf of Eddie’s drug-dealing father Syd (Ray Liotta).

It’s not just law enforcement and drug dealers who find themselves on the murderous path of a coked-up black bear, though. The forest is a beautiful place worth visiting on any given day so you can expect a range of victims who innocently find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.

School kids Dee Dee (Brooklynn Prince) and Henry (Christian Convery) have skipped school to go painting in the forest. Dee Dee’s mother Sari (Keri Russell) enters the forest to look for her daughter after learning Dee Dee skipped school. European hikers Elsa (Hannah Hoekstra) and Olaf (Kristofer Hivju) are just out to explore and take photos. Ranger Liz (Margo Martindale) is trying to impress wildlife activist Peter (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) with her new expensive perfume as they help Sari look for her daughter.

Finally, there’s the Duchamps gang consisting of Stache (Aaron Holliday), Ponytail (Leo Hanna) and Vest (J.B. Moore) who are just there to rob people and generally cause trouble. With all these people running around a forest that is littered with bricks of cocaine, it leads to a violently absurd encounter with an apex predator on a cocaine bender and murderous streak worse than Al Pacino’s Tony Montana in Scarface.

Cocaine Bear is campy comedy with gruesome violence thrown in and the actors do their jobs delivering the campy tone of the film. There’s so many human characters they start to blend together as none give memorable performances, though to be honest they don’t need to. We came to see a bear get high on cocaine and kill a bunch of nothing characters and that’s pretty much what we get. The humans are just there to support the bear and be its victims, and in that respect do a sound job.

The bear itself is the star of the film and though I usually hate CGI animals in movies (most look crap and fake), the digital bear looks surprisingly good and I’m positive that’s where most of the budget went cause it didn’t go into buying a more interesting script. Ignoring some of the extreme and ridiculous circumstances the bear finds itself in, the behavior of the faux bear are believable in the moments that can be believable.

Elizabeth Banks (Charlie’s Angels, Pitch Perfect 2) directed a movie that wasn’t nearly as funny as I imagined it would be (given that Banks is a comedy pro), yet was significantly more violent than I expected. While I did find myself laughing or chuckling in parts, much of the comedy felt forced or was simply trying too hard as jokes fell flat or missed the mark. Given the bear can’t be attacking people in every scene, I found myself impatient and fidgety by the lackluster story between the killing.

Speaking of death scenes, one thing Cocaine Bear does amazingly well is how characters are taken out one by one. The death scenes are creative, varied and at times done so graphic I found myself squirming in my seat or jumping up in shock. The violence is done so well it puts mainline horror films to shame – yeah I’m looking at you Hellraiser 2022. Squeamish types should be ready to cover their eyes – many times.

Cocaine Bear is silly and violent but it’s not trying to be anything more. This film delivers most of what you’d expect, given  the title, and while it’s nowhere as funny as Elizabeth Banks and her crew probably thought it was going to be, this take on a “real story” is still very entertaining and wonderfully brutal. Remember kids: just say ‘no’ to drugs.

  • MPAA Rating: R
  • Release Date: February 24, 2023
  • Distributor: Universal Pictures

Originally published on March 08, 2023 at https://www.popzara.com/movies/movie-reviews/cocaine-bear-2023/