dir: Elizabeth Banks
Cocaine Bear is an actual movie that exists. It is about a bear that finds a tonne of cocaine, and really likes eating it and snorting it.
The words “based on a true story” have never done heavier lifting than in the sentence “Cocaine Bear is based on a true story”. Yes, there was once a shitload of cocaine dumped out of a plane. And yes a bear found these packages and enjoyed their contents.
That’s where all similarities between that story and the story depicted here end.
This feels like it should have been called Cocaine Bear? Fuck Yeah! or That Fuckin’ Cocaine Bear!. It should have had Werner Herzog in it, or at least have him doing ample amounts of voice over.
It should have embraced the complete idiocy of its premise and just had a rampaging massive black bear terrorising a city, having been made invincible through its ingestion of a tonne of cocaine, just killing crackers left right and centre.
Instead it manages to not even really be about the bear. It’s about a bunch of puny humans, most of whom get between the bear and more cocaine, and so they suffer the ultimate indignity of being killed indifferently by a bear that just wants more cocaine.
These humans vary greatly in whether they amuse us until the bear comes back, or whether they make us grind our teeth, begging for the bear to come back and kill them so they can shut the fuck up. Isaiah Whitlock Jnr is a cop who wants to find the cocaine, but is more affronted because he tried to get a decent dog, but ended up with a froo-froo Maltese Terrier, which threatens his masculinity way too much. I have no idea why he’s in the flick.
Margo Martindale plays a weird park ranger who flirts with some weird animal activist (Jesse Taylor Ferguson) until thankfully, blissfully, the bear kills them both. I disliked almost every second that they were onscreen, and I love Margo Martindale. She did not read the assignment.
Ray Liotta, Ray fucking Liotta, the original cocaine bear, plays the drug dealer whose drugs were thrown out of the plane and are now giving the bear the high of its life in the Georgia mountains. He somehow manages to look way scarier than the bear. This was his last role before he died; he died literally a week after re-recording some lines in post-production. And that’s pretty shameful.
He should have played the bear. It would have been more convincing to have him wear a costume and growl at people. I feel sad that he’s gone, but, honestly, some people are too terrifying for this world.
His character dispatches two goons to retrieve his drugs. One character adds a little bit (O’Shea Jackson Jnr, son of the legendary Ice Cube), the other (Alden Ehrenreich) adds less than nothing but cries unconvincingly. Unfortunately he is not eaten by the bear. I wanted the cocaine-addled bear to eat him and spare us, but no.
There are too many humans in this flick, and though we need fodder for the bear to kill, fodder doesn’t need to have dialogue, a backstory, and motivations. Most of them should only be there to scream in pain, to run in a crazed panic from something that isn’t really there, and to die memorably.
I still have the awful memory of Robert Shaw dying at the end of Jaws, in the monster’s jaws, in my head. I still remember Samuel L. Jackson’s arm being torn off in Deep Blue Sea. I barely remember any of the kills in this flick, and the previous examples I saw decades ago.
Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe it shows that I’ve matured as a person. Or maybe it indicates how unmemorable many flicks are these days, in their attempts to do everything with weightless digital effects, that show key details of a flick can be forgotten within hours of being watched.
Of the other humans, the three that read the assignment and responded accordingly are two kids (their names are irrelevant) and Keri Russell, who turns up and delivers, no matter how terrible her pantsuit or hairstyle. Whatever I might have thought about Keri Russell prior to The Americans is eternally irrelevant, because I now always know what she’s capable of as an actor.
Which is a lot, even in a stupid flick like this. Her mission here is to find the kids and stop the bear from eating them, and I was actually looking forward to her having a hand to hand fight with the bear, or at least with a knife. The bear wouldn’t have stood a chance.
Russell strikes the right tone, and the kids get the most laughs in the flick. There is of course something inherently wrong about watching two young kids trying to take cocaine, but it was ever so funny watching them try to eat it, and accidently snort it.
This film feels like a bunch of people, who had access to a shitload of cocaine, tried writing a screenplay in between doing lines, thinking every thought and set up they came up with was brilliant and would kill with an audience. If you’ve ever spent any time with people on any kind of drugs, you know that many of their ideas seem brilliant when you’re high, and are dumb as dogshit when you come down.
It’s the nature of things. In case you think I’m maligning THC, or opium or alcohol, no of course not, those are the mainstays of the music industry, and probably writing as well. Nah, stimulants are what make people think bullshit isn’t bullshit. It’s what keeps the advertising and marketing industries going, because that’s a place where speed is more important than meaning.
Cocaine is (from what I’ve heard, never having touched the stuff or even been in the room when any illegal substance has ever been imbibed by anyone ever) an awesome drug, a fucking awesome drug. There is a reason why it’s so enjoyable watching those Nancy Reagan Just Say No to Drugs ads which they show in the movie, especially since all of the people in them (especially Pee Wee Herman) know exactly how great cocaine is. But the comedown is so quick, and then you need more to get back to the brilliant, sparkling moment that you grasped, but only for a short while.
The message of the film is, don’t get between a mama bear and her cocaine, or her cubs, who also enjoy cocaine. If you use too much cocaine, you will eat people. If you, a human, get too attached to taking cocaine, a bear will come and rip your insides out.
So enjoy cocaine responsibly. These are all important messages we can all appreciate. I for one feel richer from the experience.
I “enjoyed” watching this stupid movie, but doesn’t mean it’s even vaguely a good movie. Had I watched it in a packed cinema I probably would have enjoyed it more but I still would have felt it was a missed opportunity.
This needed to be far more crazed and fun. Everyone including the bear should have been on lines and lines of coke while they were doing or saying anything. That is the only way this could have worked.
6 times I wanted to scream “Say Hello to my Massive Friend!” out of 10
“What the fuck is wrong with that bear?” – absolutely nothing, it is exactly as nature intended - Cocaine Bear