Film Review: Cocaine Bear

This review is spoiler free.

Elizabeth Banks makes her directorial debut with Cocaine Bear, after a cocaine drop goes wrong and a large shipment of the drug ends up in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest, a black bear stumbles upon a brick and ends up becoming hooked on the stuff before going on a violent drug-fuelled rampage. (Amazingly, this is loosely based on a true story, but I have a feeling they may be exaggerating things a bit with this one!)

Just the first paragraph of this review makes this film sound utterly ridiculous, yet my biggest criticism of this is that it wasn’t ridiculous enough! I went in to Cocaine Bear with a certain expectation and was fully prepared for a wild ride that embraced the absurdity of it’s concept, but instead I ended up watching a film that somewhat took itself fairly seriously and kept the titular bear out of the picture for quite a large part of the runtime.

Without spoiling too much, the plot leads to a number of different groups of people (with differing motivations) all venturing in to the park and inevitably coming face-to-face with the drug-hooked bear at some stage in their journey. I was genuinely surprised by how much time we spent with these characters and the film does make a conscious effort to give some of them a few layers, but ultimately they’re just no where near as interesting as they need to be to justify the amount of screentime they get.

But what about the bear? If you can suspend your disbelief a bit and forgive the average at the best CGI, then there’s entertainment to be had. You’ll be given a few gory kills that are not for the squeamish and revel in the carnage that is left behind, it’s all delivered with a comedic spin so don’t expect anything that scary, but it works and was probably the only way for this to be handled, it’s a black bear on cocaine at the end of the day.

Even at a measly 1 hour and 35 minutes, Cocaine Bear does start to feel like it is outstaying it’s welcome by the end and it does expose just how wafer thin the plot is, this probably would have been better off being a 1 hour TV special or something akin to that. My takeaway from this one is that Banks was trying too hard to make the film a bit more “normal”, when it should have just gone all out on the insanity and giving the audience more of what they came to see. The film delivers most when the bear is on the screen but for reasons I can’t fathom, those involved decided the human characters were more important. I feel the result will end up being a film that gets lost in the ether and forgotten about in a few months, when it could have become a cult classic.

I didn’t dislike this movie, it made me laugh a bit and I was somewhat entertained. But I needed more from this and it certainly wasn’t what I was expecting, which in this instance wasn’t a good thing. I have no intention to watch it again as there just isn’t enough of what made it fun.

Unless you’re on some kind of Unlimited scheme like I am, don’t bother paying to see this. Wait for a streaming or a TV release!

I give Cocaine Bear a 5.5/10.


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