Don’t do crack. No better yet, don’t give a wild bear crack, because you won’t want the inevitable outcome. Then again, it probably takes several crack parties to develop the rambunctious insanity that is Cocaine Bear, the new action-comedy film inspired by a true story, from the comedic mind of actress-turned-director Elizabeth Banks (of Pitch Perfect fame).
And if you’re thinking “What true story?”, you’re going to want to fire up Wikipedia. Lifting moderately from actual events, and embellished beyond recognition, Cocaine Bear sees a drug-trafficking plan gone bananas when bags of cocaine were dropped out of an airplane, and into a wildlife forest in a small Georgia town. Before the authorities and the drug cartel can get to it, a wild black bear that’s smarter than the average carnivoran mammal manages to go to town with it and develops a taste for the drug. Banks’ movie takes some creative liberties as to what happened while the bear was high, but it surely will blow your mind.
The bear is the star of the movie obviously, as all she does is go around the park looking for more cocaine to snack on, turning violent when she doesn’t get what she wants, as the rest of the film’s ensemble tries to work around her and the situation.
In his final role before his death last year, Ray Liotta plays drug cartel leader Syd Dentwood, who tasks his son Eddie (Alden Ehrenreich) and Daveed (O’Shea Jackson Jr) to retrieve as many duffel bags of gravity-bound cocaine as they can. Their story focuses on the toxic father-son dynamic, along with the deteriorating friendship between Daveed and Eddie. It also doesn’t help that Eddie’s going through a break-up so matters are all the more sensitive. They also have Police Officer Bob (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) on their trail, who spends most of the movie worrying about his new pet dog.
Divorced nurse Sari (Keri Russell) heads straight for the park when she learns that her daughter cut school and has gone into hiding after being attacked by the cocaine bear, while Margo Martindale is a park ranger trying to woo an animal enthusiast, played by Jesse Tyler Ferguson.
There are various stories happening at once and whilst some stories take more screen time than others – like the one involving the drug dealers and Russell’s concerned mother on a mission – we find Martindale and Ferguson’s story the most memorable. Ferguson, of Modern Family fame, and Martindale, who remains familiar despite playing smaller roles in comedic shows and dramas, have amazing chemistry.
Ferguson playing a straight character for once is a joke in itself and Martindale brings such strong sass to her definite no-nonsense park ranger character. Put some weird and uncomfortable flirting between the two on the backdrop of a coked-up bear gone loose, and you’ve got some funny scenes of a romance that was never meant to be.
Jackson Jr’s Daveed and Ehrenreich’s Eddie’s friendship is a close second favourite pairing. Daveed just wants to get the job over with but hates that his brand-new clothes and shoes have to suffer the dirt and running water that comes with trekking in parks. He has to babysit Eddie, who is mending a broken heart and is lashing out at him and the world for the loss of his beloved. Their friendship is put to the test throughout this whole ordeal, but it turns out rather wholesome if we say so ourselves.
That said, all of these characters have a run-in with said cocaine bear at some point, and you guessed it – not all of them make it out alive. We won’t tell you who dies, but we can tell you that these deaths are gruesome, intense and oh-so-fun to watch. Rated R21, Cocaine Bear gore on well, drugs. Bear attacks are never pretty to look at in general but when you have an agitated and drugged wild animal, you can expect limbs flying and blood splatters on every corner of the screen when she experiences withdrawal. It’s not Saw or Final Destination gory, but it can be a little uncomfortable for folks that aren’t used to watching the various heinous ways a person can die.
As a comedy, Cocaine Bear has some funny moments that will get a loud laugh from viewers. Banks’ humour has always been quick, smart and inappropriate. Pitch Perfect and Charlie’s Angels are some of Banks’ funniest works and they’re PG13, so you can expect a little more sexual and drug references in Cocaine Bear given its R21 rating.
Cocaine Bear runs for an hour and 35 minutes and with all the insanity that happens between the human characters and the bears, time flies really fast. It is a little bit of a wild ride and you might leave the movie confused as to who you’re supposed to be rooting for – the killing bear or the human victims? – but at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter when you’re having a good time.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
A coked-up black bear in 1980s Georgia? What could possibly go wrong? Turns out, a lot. Cocaine Bear is an insane ride loosely inspired by a true tale. Gorey, funny and a little bit campy, this is a quick and easy watch to pass the time.
Story - 7/10
Direction - 7/10
Characterisation - 7/10
Geek Satisfaction - 7/10