27th Feb2023

‘Cocaine Bear’ Review

by Alex Ginnelly

Stars: Keri Russell, Alden Ehrenreich, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Ray Liotta, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Brooklynn Prince, Christian Convery, Margo Martindale, Jesse Tyler Ferguson | Written by Jimmy Warden | Directed by Elizabeth Banks

In 1985, Andrew Thornton, a corrupt lawyer-turned-drug smuggler, dumped packages of cocaine over Georgia before attempting to escape with nearly 80 pounds of the drug strapped to his body. However, the parachute malfunctioned, and Thornton fell to his death in a Georgia resident’s driveway. The rest of the drugs landed in a forest and were consumed by a black bear, who overdosed and died within minutes, eating $20 million worth of the white powder. But what if the bear didn’t die? What if instead, the bear went on a killing rampage, and the lives of some very plain and bland characters crossed paths with the drug-fuelled predator? Well that seems to be the exact question the writers of Cocaine Bear have asked themselves. My only wish is that they asked the question, but what if we made it entertaining?

There have been many movies defined by their titles. Most famously is Snakes on a Plane, the ridiculously silly Samuel L Jackson film that became defined by its viral marketing. Cocaine Bear has somewhat shared that viral marketing. From the moment the trailer and the title were released it seemed all anyone online could talk about was how ridiculous the film sounded and looked. Its creativity in its marketing and the buzz of that first trailer, created hype for what a crazy rollercoaster the film could be. Unfortunately, that trailer and title are as crazy as the film got. In reality, the film was rather tame. There was never a moment in the film I was shocked or disgusted, as the marketing suggested I would be. And I am ok with that, as long as everything else is working. But nothing else was.

Cocaine Bear tried too hard to be something it wasn’t. There were too many plot lines that lead to nothing, and too many characters that were only half-cooked, and never fully formed. If you want us to care about characters getting eaten by a cocaine bear then we have to like those characters, we have to have empathy towards them, and the film never gets there. Instead, it introduces character after character, storyline after storyline, none of which ever feel resolved or even with any meaning behind them. The times the movie was working was when they allowed the movie to be ridiculous, when it went all out with the craziness of the title, however these moments were too rare. After all, we just came to see a bear do coke and eat people, it’s not hard to mess up.

With films like this, there’s an expectation going in, a sense we feel like we’re owed some fun, some stupid crazy escapism that many movies don’t give. The film felt like it didn’t want to fully embrace that, it wanted the characters to have arcs and good storytelling, but never fully committed to that, so it never fully become either. It felt stuck somewhere in the middle and ended up leaving Cocaine Bear feeling like a plain old snooze fest. It feels like this should have been made in the late 80s or early 90s for half the budget and double the ridiculousness. They would have had more coke, more kills, and more fun. It’s the kind of film that feels like it’s screaming out to becoming a cult classic, but to do that you need the ridiculousness, you need the crazy and foolish, and all the fun that comes with that.

I’m the end I didn’t care who the bear killed, or if the bear lived or died, or what the outcome to this story was. I just wanted more. I wanted to laugh, I wanted to have fun, and I wanted to forget about the world for 90 minutes. You don’t need every film to have character arcs that get resolved or characters we care about, as long as the film is offering something in its place. Something thoughtful or meaningful, something suspenseful or tense, or something ridiculously hilarious. Cocaine Bear offers nothing, it’s caught too much in two minds and never knows what it wants to be. In the end, the only thing class A about this film is a class A disappointment.

** 2/5

Cocaine Bear is in cinemas now.


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