The marketing strategy for director/actor Elizabeth Banks’ Cocaine Bear, could sell itself through its name alone. As one could imagine, that is quite simply what this film is all about. “Inspired” by the true story of a bear who made its way through roughly 70 pounds of cocaine after it was dropped out of a plane by a drug smuggler. Of course even a bear of such a size as this one, who later earned the named of Pablo Eskobear (fantastic), couldn’t live long after the vast amounts consumed. But that’s where these stories differ drastically from reality to the pure absurdity.
Much like a university student at freshers weekend, once the bear gets a taste for the gear, he can’t get enough of it, and for those wandering the forest of Georgia’s Chattahoochee National Park, their encounter with the apex predator will be brief and brutal. Of those encounters are Dee Dee (Brooklyn Prince) and Henry (Christian Convery), two kids choosing the worst day to bunk off school, a worried mother and nurse, Sari (Keri Russell), drug trafficker Syd (the late great Ray Liotta) and his mules, son Eddie (Alden Ehrenreich) and his friend Daveed (O’Shea Jackson Jr.), detective Bob (Isiah Whitlock Jr.), park ranger Liz (Margo Martindale) and wildlife inspector Peter (Jesse Tyler Ferguson).
These characters are your fairly substandard movie simpletons and are given little more to do than to create a sense of jeopardy for when the real star of the show will inevitably meet them during her drug fuelled day.
With each insane sequence looking to ludicrously out play its previous with comical crudity, and wondrous B-movie nuttiness, Cocaine Bear charms through its ability to showcase the most bizarre scenarios in the most ruthless of ways.
Cocaine Bear is a fun little appetiser to mark the 2023 slate of films post all the award associated features. Banks’ creature-feature is bearable enough and wraps up in a modest 95 minute runtime. Whilst it may not do for national parks what Jaws once did for the open water, it’s more in contrast with the other aptly named cult classics like Snakes on a Plane (2006), Anaconda (1997) and Snarknado (2013), in which it does exactly what it says on the tin – or in this case, its title – and runs solely on the premise of that.
This bear is more of a Paddington for the parents, only not with the appetite for marmalade, but instead cocaine and the human’s it’s hunting. Not likely to blowup box-office sales, but could do enough with its brisk runtime and provided comedic relief.