Released: 23rd February
Seen: 5th March

In 1985 a 175 kg black bear in the wilderness of Tennessee came upon a bag of cocaine that had been dumped from a plane by Andrew C. Thornton II, a noted drug dealer (who, hilariously, jumped from the plane with his cocaine and died because his parachute didn’t open). Like any good bear who finds a fuckload of cocaine, this big black bear ate so much cocaine that it was later found dead from an overdose. This bear has since been taxidermied and given the glorious name of Cokey The Bear… this is a completely true story, this absolutely happened. The only thing we don’t know is what this bear did between finding the cocaine and dying from the overdose. Cocaine Bear decides to answer that question and it’s absolutely glorious.

Cocaine Bear doesn’t waste any time, it starts shortly after the titular bear has done the titular cocaine and has started stalking people who happen to be on its mountain. The title card doesn’t even get a chance to pop up before Cocaine Bear has done what a bear fueled by cocaine is going to do, which is to tear people apart because it’s very upset that they don’t have cocaine to give it.

Of course, in order for a film about a bear on cocaine to last for 90 minutes, we’re going to need some human beings for the bear to chase. This film has several of those but the central ones are Sari (Keri Russell) and her daughter Dee Dee (Brooklynn Prince) who haven’t been getting along well. Because Dee Dee is a precocious child she skips school with her friend Henry (Christian Convery) to go paint the falls in the local park, the one that happens to contain a bear who has eaten an assload of cocaine. This will be the central issue, Sari trying to rescue her kids from a drugged-up bear and while that’s happening there’ll be some side characters, park rangers, some kids in a gang, the actual drug dealers coming to look for their cocaine… but mostly all you’re going to care about is the big bear that does a bunch of blow.

Keri Russell - Cocaine Bear (2023)
Keri Russell – Cocaine Bear (2023)

Smartly, Cocaine Bear knows that the audience does not give a single solitary fuck about how the bear got high in the first place or about the logic of the situation. The film knows that the audience saw the title and went “Yes, I would like to see what happens when a bear has a bad trip on cocaine” and this film delivers exactly that. Turns out cocaine turns bears into Jason Voorhees, just carving through people like they were nothing and leaving a pile of bloody limbs everywhere. It’s not going for highbrow, it’s not going to push the boundaries of anything except good taste… it’s a film about a goddamn bear doing coke, you should know what you’re going to get.

Impressively, Cocaine Bear also knows that it needs to have levels so that it’s not just a one-joke movie. It knows when to make the bear terrifying, it knows when to make it hilarious and it knows when the bears should be adorable (Seriously, there is nothing cuter than a pair of baby bears rolling about just covered in cocaine). It lets you have a strange emotional journey with the bears, somehow keeping them completely sympathetic even when they’re brutally mauling one of the actors from Modern Family. You weirdly end up kind of rooting for the bear, all the bear wants to do is be high as balls on cocaine and be left alone so why shouldn’t it be able to enjoy that?

Cocaine Bear also goes above and beyond what it probably needed to in terms of visuals, the effects work in this is incredible. The bear that we have to keep spending time with looks fantastic, the effects work is genuinely sublime and they only use it when needed. It’s genuinely amazing how much effort went into making sure this very silly movie looks as good as possible, some shots are jaw-dropping in how good they are. It’s really proof that Elizabeth Banks is a great director in this genre, she gets how to build the tension and play the comedic beats just right. Sure her previous films have been questionable (Pitch Perfect 2 and Charlie’s Angels) but maybe that’s because she should’ve been doing wild horror-comedy films this entire time.

Cocaine Bear is exactly what you think it is, a 90-minute romp where a bear does a fuckload of cocaine and then kills a bunch of people… it’s almost review-proof on concept alone, but it’s also just genuinely a good film with a fantastic cast who gets the kind of film that they’re in and delivers performances that fit with that genre. It’s glorious insanity, the kind of movie where you can comfortably say that if you laugh hearing the title you’ll have fun. Apparently, there are already talks about doing other movies with this idea, specifically a Cocaine Shark movie (because there was a recent story about a shark that found a bunch of cocaine) and if they are all this good, I will gleefully pay to see this team make a movie about every apex predator doing cocaine and going on a spree. It’s fun, it’s stupid, it’s goddamn cinema!


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