Cocaine Bear provides a solid sniff of quality ‘turn-your-brain-off’ entertainment, with an absolutely blissful 95 minute runtime.
BY JACK RANSOM FEBRUARY 27, 2023
Inspired by a true story. Set in 1985, Cocaine Bear sees an oddball group of cops (Isiah Whitlock Jr.), Rangers (Margo Martindale), criminals (Alden Ehrenreich, O’Shea Jackson Jr. & Ray Liotta), tourists and teens (Brooklynn Prince & Christian Convery) converge on a Georgia forest where a huge black bear goes on a murderous rampage after unintentionally ingesting cocaine.
Alongside Plane this might have the best title of the year, and also like the aforementioned Butler barrage, Cocaine Bear provides a solid sniff of quality ‘turn-your-brain-off’ entertainment, with an absolutely blissful 95 minute runtime, that races by at a bloodthirsty, blow fuelled rampage of a pace. This rapid fire approach manages to make the (certainly) noticeable lack of substance and flowing structure to the plot and the admittedly one-note (yet charismatic) characters far more forgivable.
Zipping between four different main perspectives (as well as a couple just for the body count sake) for the majority of the runtime (before they cross paths) does make the film feel a little jumpy, yet also is balanced enough to let you be surprisingly invested in these characters and also match the frenetic drugged up mindset of the bear. Everyone has their own motivations of being there, so you won’t think “why don’t they just leave?” and even though the titular beast is still the star of the show, the filmmakers realise that despite its glorious premise it can’t simply be Yogi chaos for 90 minutes.
When said chaos does occur though Cocaine Bear is a lot of fun. Hitting that sweet spot between schlocky retro slasher brutality (there is some savagely satisfying gory outcomes on display here) and ridiculous comedic goofiness (with probably one of the best uses of Just Can’t Get Enough ever put to screen in one particular sequence). Banks crafts some solidly tense moments, as well as utilising her comedic sensibilities with the editing and framing. Sure, the lower budget is noticeable at points, but in all honesty the blend of CGI and practical effects blend nicely together, and even in its more obviously apparent moments there is a B-movie charm to it.
As previously mentioned the characters aren’t particularly standout or defining (I mean it is titled Cocaine Bear). However, they are engaging enough for this material. Alden Ehrenreich and O’Shea Jackson Jr.‘s criminal (with mostly good nature) pals make for a solid duo, Isiah Whitlock Jr.‘s bumbling, yet dedicated sheriff and Margo Martindale’s snarky, foul mouthed park Ranger provide fun back up. Kerri Russell, Brooklynn Prince and Christian Convery have a believable dynamic and the late Ray Liotta channels his gangster days once again as drug lord Syd.
Cocaine Bear is exactly what you expect and if that is what you are in the mood for then you’ll probably have a lot of fun. Splattery kills, a charismatic cast, a riotously quick pace and a couple of genuinely laugh out loud moments. Sure, it is paper thin in terms of plot and part of me wishes some aspects could have gone even more extreme, but honestly having suffered through Quantumania in the past week, I’ll take 10 more ‘dumb fun’, low budget, goofy horror comedies like this any day.