Cocaine Bear (2023) Review

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cocaine bear 2023 review 23022302
Cocaine Bear

Every once in a while, a movie takes the Internet by storm simply because of its hilarious title. Snakes on a Plane was a meme 17 years before it was announced. However, Cocaine Bear has a leg up on that movie with one simple fact: It was based on a true story.

In 1985, a drug smuggler dropped over 40 bricks of cocaine in a forest in Knoxville, Tennessee. The package was found by a wild black bear, who proceeded to eat some of it. In real life, the bear died of an overdose without reportedly harming anyone. The movie version of this wild story takes a different tack: The bear not only survives but becomes violently addicted, maiming anyone and everything in its path to get its next fix.

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From then on, we jump between two sets of protagonists. At one end is Sari (Keri Russell), a nurse who has to rescue her daughter Dee Dee (Brooklyn Prince) and Dee Dee’s boyfriend Henry (Christian Convery), who are lost in the woods. On the other side are two drug dealers, Daveed and Eddie (O’Shea Jackson Jr. and Alden Ehrenreich, respectively), who go into the woods to collect drugs to take to their boss (Ray Liotta).

“Despite my earlier complaints, when the spotlight finally falls on the Cocaine Bear himself? It delivers everything you can expect from a movie like this.”

There are a lot of supporting characters in addition to those mentioned within Cocaine Bear. In fact, there are long stretches where the bear is nowhere to be found. This wouldn’t be a problem if the characters were interestingly written, but for the most part, they are pretty forgettable and some of the running gags miss more than they hit. That’s not to say that there were bad performances because everyone here is clearly having a good time. Margot Martindale has perhaps the most fun as a gun-toting park ranger. It was also really good to see the late Ray Liotta on screen again, clearly channelling the smarminess of some of his most famous performances.

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Despite my earlier complaints, when the spotlight finally falls on the Cocaine Bear himself? It delivers everything you can expect from a movie like this. Elizabeth Banks does a great job of making this bear act like a cross between Jaws and Jason Voorhees. The bear prowls and speeds through the background stalking its prey, and for most of the first act, it’s off-screen. When he does appear, bodies and blood fly in equal measure. The bear is an absolute force of nature. Probably the biggest highlight of the movie is an ambulance chase scene that is everything you would expect from a movie like this: Brutal, over the top and absolutely hilarious.

A movie like this can generally fall into one of two extremes: it can either live up to the wild expectations of the internet, or it can just fall flat on its face trying too hard to be dumb, like Sharknado. Personally, I think Cocaine Bear falls somewhere in the middle. The ups (pun intended) are amazing, but the downs are very obvious when the bear is gone. Still, it’s a movie about a bear snorting coke off a man’s disembodied leg. You know exactly what kind of movie this is from the moment you walk in.

Final Thoughts

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