Cocaine Bear: The Brutal Bear with the Blow

When a film opens with a quote from Wikipedia, you know you?re in for something special.

Directed by Elizabeth Banks, the new horror-comedy, Cocaine Bear, is yet another film that embraces the lunacy of its concept. Similar to other recent films like the terrifying toy from Me3an, sadistic Santa in Violent Night and even the hot dog fingers of Everything Everywhere All at Once, it seems like this is a time where films are getting zanier by the minute. Maybe it?s a collective catharsis coming out of the pandemic. Maybe it?s a response to the stresses of our own cultural madness. But, for whatever the reason, we seem to be in a space where we?re drawn to the strangest?and messiest?of concepts.

Now, we have Cocaine Bear.

Inspired by a true story, Cocaine Bear begins in 1985 when a drug runner?s plane crashes in a Georgia forest. With a multi-million-dollar cargo of cocaine that has now gone missing amidst the woods, drug dealers Eddie and Daveed (Alden Ehrenreich and O?Shea Jackson Jr.) are sent by their boss (Ray Liotta) to retrieve the lost merchandise. However, when they arrive on the scene, they discover that their precious shipment has been consumed by a 500lb bear that now has a taste for blow?and human blood.

Cocaine Bear, directed by Elizabeth Banks.

In Cocaine Bear, Banks fully leans into the wildness of her wildlife. Fueled by its insatiable desire to create carnage, this film throws logic out the window in order to push its concept as far as it can take it. Severed limbs and torsos are all on the menu for the drug-induced beast and the film is more than happy to show off the damage. Yet, it?s also worth noting that almost all of its gore is played up for laughs. In some ways, the brutality of this bear?s rampage plays out like the violence of a Popeye cartoon, but replacing the magic power of spinach with the beast?s next ingestion of cocaine. (Seriously. The slightest whiff of coke even awakens the bear from unconsciousness to continue its bloodbath.)

This is not a film that attempts to scare the viewer with horrifying jump scares. Instead, every character is meant to feel like a potential snack in the grumpy grizzly?s feeding frenzy? and we?re ready to cheer on the next victim. (For example, the fact that almost all characters are wearing white shirts is an indicator that anyone could be brutalized at any given moment.)

(from left) Stache (Aaron Holliday) and Daveed (O?Shea Jackson, Jr.) in Cocaine Bear, directed by Elizabeth Banks.

Having said this, one might be surprised to find that performances within the film are actually solid all around. Stars Keri Russell, Alden Ehrenreich, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and O?Shea Jackson Jr. are more than willing to share the spotlight with the beast incarnate and they?re all up for the frenzied furry? er, fury. 

It?s worth noting that this film is also the final film for Ray Liotta, who passed away after filming completed. At first glance, Cocaine Bear feels like a strange finale to his stellar career. However, one of Liotta?s greatest talents was satirizing his own bad guy persona in comedies like Muppets Most Wanted and Wild Hogs. As such, while Cocaine Bear won?t be what he?s best remembered for, neither is it an unfitting finale for the actor?s career.

This is normally the time when I like to explore the deeper meaning of whatever content I?m reflecting upon. And, believe it or not, there?s an interesting subtext to Cocaine Bear about the theme of women and motherhood. Surprisingly, for many of the characters, the impact of mothers is felt deeply, whether it?s their desire to protect their children or the loss that one experiences after their passing. With its emphasis on female strength and empowerment, Banks ensures that the film shows the importance of the maternal relationship.

Keri Russell as Sari in Cocaine Bear, directed by Elizabeth Banks.

But no one is going to pop in a copy of?Cocaine Bear?for their next Mother?s Day gathering.

Despite its positive messages about women, that?s simply not the draw to a film called Cocaine Bear. As such, this becomes a difficult film to review. This will undoubtedly please those who love the insanity of its concept and want to laugh at the absurdity of its violence. For others, this will have? the opposite response. But, without question, Banks done an excellent job of creating a film that?s so insane and so wild that one can?t help but watch the carnage unfold before them.

Cocaine Bear is available in theatres on Friday, February 24th, 2023.

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