Cocaine Bear Review

Cocaine Bear is a lean and mean ninety minute horror movie/ crime comedy mashup that entertains from start to finish.

PLOT: A black bear discovers a duffle bag of cocaine and has one hell of a party.

REVIEW: Cocaine Bear is one heck of a good time at the movies. Running a lean and mean ninety-five minutes, it takes full advantage of its wacky premise. It delivers a ton of R-rated carnage and silliness without overstaying its welcome. Inspired by a legit thing that happened in the eighties, where a plane full of cocaine crashed, and a duffel bag of cocaine was consumed by a black bear who found it in the forest, the film uses this wacky true crime tidbit to craft a fun crime caper/horror movie mash-up. It’s a solid directorial vehicle for Elizabeth Banks, who gives the film the edge and energy it needs, making it a uniquely entertaining studio flick for adults.

Of course, if you’re not hip to the idea of a bear doing a bunch of blow and killing some folks, then Cocaine Bear isn’t for you. But, if you dig the premise, this is a blast, with Banks assembling an A-list (if possibly overstuffed) cast of characters, all of whom run afoul of the titular bear. The film primarily centers around two plot threads, one of which involves the dealers trying to recover the coke, and is dominated mainly by Alden Ehrenreich and O’Shea Jackson Jr. They play two low-rent drug couriers sent by their boss (Ray Liotta) to collect the drugs. The other thread centers around a single mom (Keri Russell) who ends up in the woods looking for her daughter, who’s playing hooky from school.

cocaine bear review

While one might assume Russell, as the sympathetic civilian, would dominate the film, Banks and her writer, Jimmy Warden, instead center the movie around Ehrenreich and Jackson, turning it into a kind of buddy comedy. They’d be the bad guys in a typical film, but both are wholly sympathetic here. Ehrenreich’s Eddie is mourning the death of his wife and is reluctantly brought back into the game by his drug kingpin dad (Liotta) and his best pal, Daveed (Jackson), but he’s eager to leave the life behind him and wants Daveed to do the same. Ehrenreich’s in the midst of a solid comeback post-Solo, with him also fronting the biggest movie to emerge from this year’s Sundance, Fair Play.

Despite the character’s tragic backstory, Ehrenreich mostly plays the cynical Eddie for laughs, and he and Jackson have great buddy-buddy chemistry. As noted elsewhere, despite all the killing, the bear isn’t really the bad guy here. Instead, Liotta’s sadistic drug lord is the main evildoer, with Eddie trying to convince Daveed that his father doesn’t care about anyone other than himself and couldn’t care less if they get devoured by the hard-partying bear.

cocaine bear

If Cocaine Bear has a falling, it’s that it feels like Russell’s role might have gotten trimmed a bit in favour of Eddie and Daveed, which is understandable as they’re the most compelling characters. By contrast, Russell is a more upstanding heroine, although they give her a fun eighties jumpsuit to wear as she tries to rescue her kid. She’s saddled with the “straight” role. She gets upstaged by her scenery-chewing co-stars, especially Isiah Whitlock Jr as a cop who just wants to get home to his dog and (best of all) Margo Martindale as a love-struck, homicidal park ranger (channelling her iconic voice work as herself on Bojack Horseman). TikTok star Scott Seiss also has a fun part as an EMT that runs afoul of the titular bear, while Ray Liotta gets a juicy final role as the movie’s big bad (the film is dedicated to him).

Given the eighties setting, Banks and company also fill the soundtrack with a bunch of hits (with Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh doing the score). To their credit, they dig a little deeper into the eighties treasure chest, with decent selections from Berlin (not the one you’re thinking) and Depeche Mode. Given that the bear is CGI and the film is relatively low-budget for studio fare, the coked-out creature looks good, and Banks embraces the R-rating with plenty of gore.

Ultimately, it’s on you if you buy a ticket for a movie called Cocaine Bear and aren’t in on the joke. It’s a fun lark done with style and energy. It never takes itself seriously and only seeks to entertain. If you’re looking for a serious crime caper, this ain’t it – but if you just want to have a gory, R-rated good time, this hard-partying bear is the critter for you.

Cocaine Bear director Elizabeth Banks says she would take the opportunity if given the chance to make a Cocaine Bear 2

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About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.