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  • Writer's pictureMaxwell J.

Cocaine Bear (2023) is an Addictive Horror Romp with Plenty of Laughs and Thrills

Title: Cocaine Bear

First Non-Festival Release: February 22, 2023 (Theatrical Release)

Director: Elizabeth Banks

Writer: Jimmy Warden

Runtime: 95 Minutes

Starring: Keri Russell, Alden Ehrenreich, O’Shea Jackson Jr, Ray Liotta

Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here

While it seems impossible, Cocaine Bear is loosely based on a true story of a bear that did consume large amounts of cocaine from a failed drug smuggling operation, which saw two men dispose of 40 plastic contains of cocaine into the Georgian wilderness.

The story in the cinematic adaptation, however, has deadlier consequences. Instead of perishing from the vast amounts of cocaine in its system, the bear in this movie is emboldened to go on a coke-fueled rampage in the forest. Nurse Sari’s (Keri Russell) daughter Dee Dee (Brooklyn Prince) and her friend henry (Christian Convery) are among the many in danger. While she attempts to track down Dee Dee, drug dealers Eddie (Alden Ehrenreich) and Daveed (O’Shea Jackson Jr) work to track down the shipments that were lost so Eddie’ father Syd (Ray Liotta) doesn’t have to face the wrath of his creditors.

Cocaine Bear is a hijinks-fueled, high-octane adventure in the Georgian mountains that makes for one addictive horror comedy.

The ridiculous story of a cocaine-fueled bear comes together as silly as one might expect. Patched together with some of the most tenuous connections possible, Cocaine Bear ensures that the major players in its story overlap accordingly. A frantic mother searching for her daughter and friend who decided to skip school and hit up the park, a group of wayward teens causing trouble, overworked and undersexed park rangers, and, of course, the drug dealers who started the whole mess are thrown into the pot. While some fates are easy to predict, Cocaine Bear makes a few surprising choices with who lives and how its final moments play out that subvert expectations in fun ways.

Comedy is milked out of every possible situation, and the attention to detail remains one of the best attributes of Cocaine Bear. From the get-go, Cocaine Bear establishes just how off-the-wall its premise is compared to standard Hollywood fare. This clear understanding of exactly what film is playing makes for some outlandish comedic moments. From hidden jokes in the background, over-the-top character reactions, and some strong liberties taken with the true effects of cocaine, this intentional B-movie makes for a glorious watch with friends.

It doesn’t quite all come together plot-wise, as there are plenty of moments that lack the necessary weight to drive the story. The way in which everyone converges in the end feels incredibly convenient rather than something that would naturally occur. This is a recurring theme, as Cocaine Bear has a habit of employing the trope where people haplessly run into each other to either increase the comedy or raise the stakes. While most of the comedy hits, there are a few scenes that seem a bit mean spirited compared to the rest of the film. Some of the jokes aimed at Ranger Liz (Margo Martindale) feel particularly egregious.

Surprisingly solid special effects and dynamic camerawork bring the wacky world of Cocaine Bear to life. A character in of itself, the bear in Cocaine Bear is an incredible performer. Beautifully rendered in almost fully believable computer effects, the bear shifts between real terror and dopey comedy with ease. Had the creature effects been sub-par or actively terrible, Cocaine Bear would not have the same effect as it does.

A strong sense of direction from director Elizabeth Banks emerges with every camera pan or long shot. Knowing when to employ the most to make a standard game of horror hide-and-seek in the woods comical while constructing one of the most thrilling hilarious set pieces of the film, the ambulance chase, Banks shows that she can shift accordingly with incredible payoff.

The humor isn’t for everyone, but for most horror fans Cocaine Bear will be an absolute blast to enjoy on a weekend night with friends. The jokes are great, the kills are gnarly, and the overall watch is easy. For those seeking something more philosophical or technically marvelous you may want to look elsewhere. If a mindless creature feature with some impressive effects and sequences sounds up your alley, however, Cocaine Bearmay be the Hollywood B-movie that is up to snuff for you.

Overall Score? 7/10

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